Last year I attended an excellent conference called the Pioneer Network Conference. After one of the fabulous sessions I spoke with the leader who is well-respected in the Culture Change movement. When she heard my company name she looked at me and said, “Did you like the session? We use the word Care Partner.” Honestly, at the moment, her snarky tone was so light that I almost didn’t catch it and I felt a little confused. From this brief exchange, it seemed the title Care Partner was superior and Caregiver was frowned upon. I have worked with seniors since 1997 and during her session was the very first time I had heard the title Care Partner in exchange for Caregiver. This conference of Culture Change was so exciting for me that I was hearing many thought provoking ideas, this was just one of them.
The fundamentals of the Culture Change movement teachings were not new to me. They are what I have been talking about and sharing for years. These ideas are exactly why I founded TheSpunkyCaregiver.com but what was new to me about the Culture Change movement was the language.
Since the conference, I have thought a lot about using the words Care Partner in place of Caregiver. I agree, the title focuses on partnership and implies that the senior is actively engaged in any care they receive which is really important in person-centered care. So mostly I love it.
On the other hand, this title will take time to effectively integrate into main stream professional senior care corporations and systems. Now, every time I speak I am making a decision about which title to use. In the senior care world I came from, Care Partners are those people, organizations and services that are part of helping a senior but are “outside” services – such as hospice, PT, OT RT, neuropsychologists, etc. So choosing to use the term Care Partners rather than Caregivers in a conversation can create more confusion that is alleviates.
Caregivers or Care Partners – What’s the word?
Words have power. I think using the title “Care Partners” is a great way to change the conversation about the role of the people who care for our seniors. I spend a section in my upcoming workbook addressing this topic because I do believe, how we talk to and label people matters. I also believe we can create a revolution and change our senior care culture, while continuing to call people Caregivers – because the value we place on someone and their work day-to-day transcends the label we put on the job. And I believe that is where true change comes from.
So until a time when Care Partner becomes ubiquitous, I will continue to use the title Caregiver with the utmost respect and continue to value the people who do this important work.
Do you prefer one title over the other? Let’s discuss it on the forums.
Kelly Sheets started working with seniors right out of college. She has worked in acute rehab, skilled nursing, assisted living and home health. Along the way Kelly became a trained yoga instructor and teaches seniors classes twice a week. She has primarily worked in management and marketing in senior care. She is the founder of the TheSpunkyCaregiver.com, KellySheets.com and deeply believes that investing in, educating and empowering the people who work with our elders not only improves the lives of the elders but also of senior communities and businesses as a whole. Kelly is member of the Dementia Action Alliance which has the mission to help people live fully with dementia and the Author of Breathe: The Simple Guide To Better Breathing