Caregiving is the process in which one individual (caregiver) looks after another individual (care recipient) who is in need of special support to go through their day. In the context of this book, the care recipient is a 60+ years old individual with some form of disability.
Caregivers can be professional caregivers – nurses and nursing assistants or family caregivers, meaning a member of the immediate family, such as a spouse, child, son- or daughter-in-law, a grandchild or a close friend of the elder individual who needs the support.
In earlier times in India, professional caregiving was restricted to hospital stays only. All other caregiving was done at home by members of the extended family all living together in a joint family system. In such large families, people of all age groups lived together and between them managed to look after each other without too much of stress accumulating on any one individual. Additionally, the fact that very few people lingered on for very long after any significant affliction meant that there were not that many long-term bedridden people around.
However, things have changed quite dramatically over the last couple of decades. On the one hand, the joint family system has all but disintegrated, especially in the urban areas, and on the other, the improving health care available to everyone has increased longevity. Together, these two changes have increased the number of elders requiring home health care while simultaneously making caregiving a more difficult activity for the one or two family members around.