Words Matter: CareGIVER, Care RECEIVER, and Care PARTNER

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Changing the culture of aging services starts by having a more person-centered focus. One of the best ways to change our focus is by changing the language we use. WORDS MATTER.

Here is a good example: We use the term “Caregiver” to refer to the people who are touching the Elders and providing hands-on care.

The “formal” Caregivers are those who are paid. The “informal” Caregivers usually are not paid and most of the times are family and friends.

When someone takes on the role as a CareGIVER, they are overwhelmed with the notion that they will be GIVING, GIVING, GIVING. The phrase “Caregiver Burden” sets up a mindset that they will be constantly DOING TO someone who will be a passive recipient of what is done to them.

In the same way, when a person becomes a Care RECEIVER, they get the message through the words we use that they are to become the RECIPIENT of the care that is GIVEN TO them. The role is implied to be passive, or submissive.

Often the Caregiver takes over and does too much, and the Care Receiver actually stops doing things for themselves that they are able to do.

We must change our focus from “DOING TO” to “DOING WITH.”

The Eden Alternative® proposes that we think of ourselves as CARE PARTNERS. This language moves the relationship forward, both consciously and unconsciously. Being a CARE PARTNER transforms our thinking AND our actions.

In a care partnership, all parties are able to give AND receive, which enhances the care relationship. CareGIVERS can allow themselves to RECEIVE. Care RECEIVERS want and need to continue to GIVE.

We often make our Elder Care Partner feel helpless by taking away the opportunity for them to give. Elders tell us they long for the opportunity to say, “You are welcome!” to their Care Partners. Restoring this balance gives life meaning and creates well-being for everyone on the Care Partner Team.

The challenge is to look for and recognize the unique abilities and gifts that Elders have and how they can share them.

In what ways are you receiving from the Elders you serve?

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