When Did I Become A Caregiver?
In the three decades of my marriage to Cathy Chester, an award-winning healthcare blogger and MultipleSclerosis.net contributor, there have been times when I had to increase my role as a husband due to her moderately-controlled MS and other health issues. During these periods, I have simply done what is necessary and looked at it as part of my role of a supportive spouse.
I didn't feel like a "caretaker"
When it was suggested that I contribute to MultipleSclerosis.net as a “caretaker,” it struck me as odd. I am not a caretaker. I don’t render any medical assistance to my spouse. It is a matter of taking on additional roles such as grocery shopping, cooking and doing laundry when Cathy does not have the energy to do those tasks.
A caretaker is one who helps people stand, dress, walk and engage in everyday activities. They feed those who are unable to feed themselves. They inject medications into people. They are healthcare professionals.
A much broader definition
As it turns out, caretaker has a much broader meaning than one might imagine.
Although some sources define caretaker as one who is employed to render care and support to others, some authorities exclude the employment requirement. According to Merriam-Webster, caretaker means “one that gives physical or emotional support.” Well, if that is the case, most of us are caretakers of a spouse or a child.
The Cambridge English Dictionary offers this nugget: a caretaker can also be a caregiver. Okay, so the proper label is caregiver. If offering support, both physical and emotional, to a disabled spouse makes me a caregiver, I’m okay with that.
The label doesn't matter, the care does
Frankly, it’s not the label that is important. Caretaker, caregiver, health partner. The label is not important, it’s the “care” that matters. The disabled community needs to know that they have a team of people who care – both inside and outside of the household. Since our medical resources are becoming increasingly more taxed as our population ages, the care that begins at home is essential.
The core of caregiving is emotional. Listening to one with a serious medical condition and offering help is important to the patient’s mental and emotional well-being. And we all know that the mind-body connection is a component of so many medical conditions. Those who are disabled do not want to be undervalued or forgotten and it is the primary focus of anyone who cares to show that they are recognized and valued.
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to multiple sclerosis?