Chances are great, that at some point in our lives, we will be faced with a serious medical crisis with a loved one. Not real pleasant to think about, but that medical crisis will likely require us to become a primary caregiver. As I've learned over the past few months, there's a fine line to walk between being a care-giver and becoming a care-taker.
My dad's cancer immediately threw my sister and I into "take action, take control" mode, as if our father suddenly became helpless and completely dependent for his own care. Even though we didn't mean to, we tried to take away some of his independence. Being a strong, independent, 85 year old survivor of WW2, he has put my sister and me in our places, and reminds us frequently that he is still capable of taking care of himself. We have been "invited" to give caring assistance to him, which we are glad to do, when he asks. We are learning to be care-givers. How can you tell the difference? Here's three key differentiating factors to be aware of:
- Caregiving feels stressful, exhausting and frustrating. Caregiving feels right and feels like love. It re-energizes and inspires you. Be wary of caretaking which quickly leads to burnout and resentment.
- Caretaking crosses boundaries. Caregiving honors them. As caregivers, we should be respectful of our loved ones wishes, and not project our own desires or expectations on their care. It's a fine line that we do not want to cross.
- Caretakers start "fixing" when a problem arises. Caregivers respectfully wait to be asked to help. I know this one all too well! When we assume what is needed, we often offend those we care for. Respect those you provide care for by waiting to be asked for assistance. This will ensure your loved one remains as independent as possible, for as long as possible.
Becoming a caregiver is a beautiful and loving gesture, and will likely bring you much closer to your loved one. Be mindful of boundaries and respectful of your loved one's wishes, and your caregiving will be rewarding for you and appreciated by your loved one. Make sure to join me next week as I share suggestions to prevent caregiver frustration and burnout.
Remember, every day, families just like yours and mine are experiencing a health care crisis with a loved one. The support and education you need to navigate the aging journey is available from expert care professionals at Lutheran Homes of Michigan. For more information on dealing with life changing issues with your parents or a loved one, contact a care representative at Lutheran Homes of Michigan by calling 989-652-3470 or by emailing
What have been your experiences maintaining respectful boundaries when providing care for a loved one?
"Codependency: Caretaking vs. Caregiving". Elizabeth Kupferman, RH, LMPC. www.expressivecounseling.com
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