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the Caregiver

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Whats in a word?

What do you call yourself when you give care? Are you a … Caregiver; Care Partner; Carer; Caretaker…

Many caregivers don’t consider themselves any of these. Instead, they are… Adult children; Parents; Grandparents; Adult grandchildren; Spouses; Partners…


I’ve given this lots of thought. Words matter. Titles we give matter. I grew up in the U.S. For more than twenty years, there has been a movement towards changing gendered language- terms such as fireman, policeman have become firefighter, police officer. The change has made it possible for children to envision role models of a different gender. Gendered language is so common that it’s difficult for some people to even notice it. This affects a wide range of behaviors and leads to subtle biases.

Finding the right word to describe relationships can be especially frustrating. The same can be said in the world of care.

When we call someone a caregiver, we are saying that s/he cares for someone who cannot fully care for him/herself at the present time. This also implies a passive role to the person who is the “object” of care. Sometimes this is really the case. Many times, however, the relationship is one in which the “object” of care needs help and does not want to need to be taken care of, but to helped.


I like the term care-partner. It is, in my opinion, empowering to both the “carer” and the “cared-for”. It promotes a sense of perspective in both parties as whole and complete. It allows for a balanced relationship of give and take and of assistance.


Caring for a loved one can be a tricky role. Sometimes no one word is needed to define the relationship. More often than not, no one word is really appropriate. When, however, we can define a situation with a word, we can better focus and help ourselves through difficult times.





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