Over 11 million French people could be considered caregivers: they spend significant time caring for elderly parents, disabled children or spouses with chronic illnesses. They do much of the work that paid nursing staff does in hospitals, but without recognition and with no pay. That may be about to change.

Helene Rossinot, a public health doctor, has been advocating for the recognition of caregivers, who she says play a key role in the functioning of the French public health system. She estimates that caregivers save the health system 11 billion euros a year.

Patients are treated well, says Rossinot, but the medical system, and the French administration, ignores those taking care of the patients.

Q: Who did you write this book for?

HR: First, the general public, because some caregivers don’t even know they are caregivers.

Also, healthcare professionals. They are not very good, for now, at recognising caregivers and knowing what to do. I can’t blame them. I myself had never heard the term ‘caregiver’ before writing this book.

For my medical thesis I was supposed to be write about palliative care, and I discovered caregivers along the way. It was the first time in my medical studies I ever heard the term ‘family caregiver’.

If I as a doctor I never heard about caregivers how do you expect people to know about them?

Before writing that book, I have to admit I did not even know that kids could be caregivers.

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