How Is One Kentucky Writer Giving Voice To a Frequently Overlooked Segment of the Workforce?

Writer Constance Alexander has been awarded a $3,000 Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women to help her write a project about women caregivers. The grant will help pay travel expenses for her research in developing a creative project titled "Handle With Care," which will focus on the "roles women play in caregiving throughout their lives."

Alexander's project is timely and appealing for a host of reasons. For brevity's sake, we'll focus on two. The first reason is that Alexander plans on giving a voice to segments of society that we don't normally hear from—in this case, women caregivers and midwives.

Alexander adroitly encapsulates a key distinguishing characteristic of innovative and impactful writing projects, noting, "I think we don’t always ask people what they think, and it's always wonderful to realize how eloquent people are when they're talking about something that's important to them. We don’t ask them often enough what they think, but when we do, we get really important answers."

This is significant. After all, think about the immense psychological challenges faced by these workers, especially those administering end-of-life care. It underscores the same logic that recommends that therapists have their own personal therapists. What kind of toll does this line of work take on caregivers? And up until now, has anyone truly focused on the challenges they face?

Alexander's emphasis on end-of-life issues is also particularly timely. If California is supposed to act as a kind of public opinion bellwether, then news out of the state seems to suggest a shift in the public's attitudes toward end-of-life issues. An "End of Life Option" law, recently proposed by state Democrats, would, among other things, allow patients who have less than six months left to live and are of sound mind to self-administer a physician’s prescription to speed death.

Of course, opinions concerning end-of-life issues vary, especially between states like California and Kentucky, and that's precisely Alexander's point. It's not a black-and-white issue, and her work aims to explore the complexities and nuances involved.

Lastly, the project mirrors the next big trend in the U.S. workforce. Namely, the rapid proliferation of female-dominated health care jobs. As the Times recently noted, "As the job market has shifted, women, in general, have more skillfully negotiated the twists and turns of the new economy, rushing to secure jobs in health care that demand more education and training."

This of course, isn't news to Alexander, who notes, "When it comes to caregivers, both volunteer and professional, women are often in the lead."

The mission of the Kentucky Foundation for Women is to "promote positive social change through varied feminist expression in the arts."