More Than Just Friends – Part II
Part I of this blog covered the importance of social support for the patient or the family caregiver. In Part II, I want to introduce you to, or at least remind you of, one group of individuals who might be able to make a huge difference in your world as a patient or caregiver: fictive kin.
Fictive kin refers to family-type relationships based not on blood ties, but on close relationships. The point that I really want to stress in this blog, is that this group of people is so important, there is an actual name for them! Fictive kin are more than just friends. These relationships are not only very real, but can be extremely meaningful for individuals who have no related kin nearby.
Fictive kin relationships are not new. In fact, anthropologists have long known about the social capital of fictive kin networks in pre-modern societies. And in modern society, many immigrants rely on fictive kin relationships as they confront problems of settling into a new country and all the difficulties which can accompany that situation. Entire books have been written about the fictive kin ties in African American communities, and one doesn’t have to look far to find a story about the caregivers of the elderly who also serve as fictive kin, or a substitute for absent family members.
Without relatives nearby, my husband and I rely heavily on fictive kin. These folks are more than friends: some weeks they are our life-line. My guess is that you too have fictive kin, but maybe never took the time to appreciate what an important social support they are in your family’s life.