When providing care when someone is ill can be overwhelming. This is a presentation on three such roles: caregivers, caretakers, or care partners. These are strictly my definitions based on my own experience as a nurse, mother, wife, and patient.
To me, a caregiver is someone who gives care based on what he or she thinks the person needs or wants. This is a common definition and is often performed by nurses and medical staff personnel. Outside the medical community, the caregiver provides basic help in the home and tends to the personal needs of the patient (bathing, walking, exercising, cooking, etc.).
One who is a caretaker (not at the cemetery), provides care based strictly on what he or she thinks the patient wants or needs. Time for a bath, go for a walk, you must eat this, take these pills, and so forth.
At the beginning of my cancer journey, Jim was a caretaker. Based on my personality, I wanted a caregiver. We talked and he understood and became the best caregiver any person could want or need.
Over the past 14 years, he has moved into the role of a care partner. Such people give care based on what the patient says or needs, and what is most helpful and safe. They listen to the patient. They share their thoughts about what is needed and wanted, coming to a decision that is best for the loved one. They are truly partners.
The important lesson to be learned when a loved one needs care is to provide safety and loving care. It is vitally important to encourage their independence…do not enable them. The goal should always be encouraging healthy choices, independence, and full recovery.
Learn more in my book, Outshine, An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. All proceeds go to gynecologic cancer research.