Once when my mother was still alive (she passed in 2009) while she was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, I visited my parents from 1200 miles away, seeing them for the first time in several months.
Dad looked exhausted.
“No wonder you’re so tired, Dad. Being Mom’s caretaker must be exhausting.”
Dad, who had always been there for Mom – her incredibly supportive husband – paused for a moment, then replied, “Yes. It can be exhausting. You’re right. But I am not her careTAKER. I am her careGIVER. There’s a difference.“
Wow. Dad’s correction struck me at the time as being so profound. And it still strikes me that way today. It was a difference I had never considered and yet, it’s far more than nuance.
I think the same difference is true for any caring relationship where the caring takes place between people within a family or a close friendship. I’ll even go so far as to define the difference in my own way:
- A careGIVER is someone who takes care of someone else out of love and caring.
- A careTAKER is someone who provides care services, more as a professional or some sort of transactional requirement.
So why is this important to advocates and care managers?
Because WORDS MATTER.
If you are contacted, contracted, or simply communicating with a loved one of your client, then that person is (by my definition) a careGIVER. They are GIVING of their time and efforts to a loved one, in a supportive role, on a constant basis. They are typically unpaid, providing the support out of love and the kindness of their hearts. When you refer to them, you should refer to them as careGIVERS.
If you are instead working with professionals who have been hired or have volunteered to work with your client (say in a medical facility or long-term care setting) then you would consider them to be careTAKERs. They are working in a professional capacity, possibly being paid for that relationship.
Most advocates and care managers, by this definition, would also be considered careTAKERs, except when they are working directly with their own loved ones.
Why is the difference important?
Because I’ve had several conversations recently with advocates or care managers who have turned around the GIVER or TAKER part of the word. And yes, even though we’re only dealing with a definition I’ve made up in my head (!) – it went right up my backbone. (Although it also made me think of Dad – putting a smile on my face 🙂 )
I think most of us prefer being called GIVERs rather than TAKERs. In conversations with clients, giving them the benefit of the careGIVER description can go a long way toward making them feel like they are playing a more important and loving role in their loved one’s lives than that a careTAKER might. When you help them feel better about their roles, then they feel better about you – and they will more likely trust you, too.
What do you think? Does this distinction make sense to you?
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