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Is Caregiving Everywhere?

What comes to mind for you when you think of a 'caregiver'? Is it the person who is hired to come in and assist your frail, elderly aunt or parent or grandparent? Over the many years of assisting family caregivers of the chronically ill, I slowly have come to see that almost everyone is a caregiver in some way or another. The narrow perception that most people have about the word 'caregiver' makes it hard to identify with it. For some, the word takes on a negative meaning. One person told me "we need to change the word". Maybe, but remember "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet".

Please allow me a few minutes to take you into the caregiving world and surprisingly you may see yourself in it, in one way or more. Even for those already identifying, it is worthwhile to enter to obtain more insight. The insight may be about yourself or other significant people in your life.

When you are outside you see a person pushing someone in a wheelchair, I think we would all agree that person is caregiving. The person may be a family member or paid worker or acting as relief for someone who is the main or primary caregiver. I described the caregiver for a person with mobility issues first because they are probably the most obvious. There are also family members, personal support workers (PSW), counselors, practitioners who are assisting people with mental health, developmental and neurological issues. How about the people receiving care who are not ill but unable to take care of themselves. Children are cared for by parents/guardians at home and teachers, administrators and principals at school. Pets also require care.

The use of the word 'caregiver' is most used and acknowledged in the field of healthcare; however there are other fields of work where people are caring for others. It is more commonly referred to in the corporate world as "servicing" others but the meaning is the same. For instance, financial advisers take on a caregiving financial role in managing other people's money. Real estate agents take on a caregiving role in finding people their "perfect" home with as little hassle as possible.

In healthcare, professionals will assess if a family caregiver is burning out. Burning out or experiencing campassion fatigue are less likely to get the same acknowledgement in the financial or real estate field or with other corporate-like professionals that do not identify as caregivers. Identifying with the caregiving role involves acknowledging the responsibility in caring for others. Identifying helps in assessing symptoms of energy loss, low mood or/and loss of sleep as related to the emotional toll the job can take, the personal time and effort invested in meeting your clients/consumers/family members needs. The condition of compassion fatigue that caregivers are at risk of experiencing often plays out as loss of the empathy and competence you once had in doing your job. Taking frequent short breaks from the caregiving/servicing role is helpful.. Acknowledging, assessing and seeking assistance when needed is not a weakness, rather it is a strength - in order to get your strength

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