I’ve always thought the word “caregiver” did a good job of describing someone who makes time on a regular basis to care for and support someone who is ill, injured or suffers from a chronic condition. But there can be issues, even with a word as mundane as this.
In states that have laws allowing for medicinal use of marijuana, the term “caregiver” is one that is defined in those laws. In order to grow or dispense marijuana, an individual must become licensed or certified by the state as a medical marijuana “caregiver.”
There’s potential for confusion here when I’m talking about people who are givers of care, versus people who are in the medical marijuana business in the states where it is permissible.
I have also noticed a tendency of certain kinds of caregivers to not identify themselves with that word. It’s especially true for caregivers who are spouses. I first noticed the shying away from being called a caregiver by spouses of cancer patients. They see themselves as being in a support role for their loved ones, especially in the initial diagnosis and treatment phase. The mind-set is that it’s a temporary situation and the word “caregiver” is too fraught with long-term and terminal connotations to be used.
Karen Galloway of the Western Slope Region of the Colorado Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says they have a similar situation with their clients and their spouses. “We don’t want to have people stop listening to the advice we have to offer because we use a word they don’t feel applies,” she said. So instead of using “caregiver” for these spouses and partners, Karen and her colleagues use the term “support partner.” That seems like a good choice if the person in question feels more comfortable with that descriptor. Other groups use the term “care partner.”
By the way, caregivers are people who give care to other people. Caretakers are people who take care of other people’s property. Just thought you’d like to get that clarified, even if the meaning of “caregiver” isn’t as plain as it used to be. What terms do you use to describe yourself as a giver of care? Have you heard of other terms you would prefer?