Last Friday was National Caregivers Day, which always falls on the third Friday in February. It’s a day set aside to celebrate and thank professional caregivers. Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, tweeted to show appreciation of individuals who take care of people.
Today we recognize and honor the hard work of caregivers, the people whose job it is to take care of the people we love.
— Douglas Emhoff (@SecondGentleman) February 19, 2021
It was great timing for a discussion we’ve been having at the National Aphasia Association about that word: Caregiver.
No one wants to be in a position of need, but we all go through stages of life where we need care. We also go through stages of life where we need to give care, and sometimes these two stages coincide. We give care and we take care at the same time.
The term “caregiver” makes sense: It’s a person who gives care. It’s a familiar term, deeply rooted in our vocabulary, enough so that we have a national day of acknowledging the work. While National Caregivers Day is directed at professional caregivers, we also acknowledge the caregivers on the homefront: the spouses or partners, children, parents, friends, or family members who step in and give aid when someone is in need, including giving care after a diagnosis of aphasia.
But we also have been talking about another term: Care Partner.
While not as familiar as “caregiver,” The term “care partner” is sometimes used to connote the partnership that exists between the person who needs help and the person who gives it. As one SLP put it, the two people (or more) are “working through the challenges of aphasia/memory loss together, rather than one person giving all the care.” This goes hand-in-hand with the term “communication partner,” which is someone who practices or works on communication with the person with aphasia.
On one hand, the term is accurate: people are partners in care. On the other hand, we worried that the term “partner” sounded limiting. The term “partner” generally means a peer-to-peer relationship: business partners or relationship partners. Would children be comfortable describing themselves as a parent’s care partner? Does it sound like only close connections qualify? Would a friend who drives a person to and from speech therapy appointments describe themselves as a care partner or caregiver?
We would love to hear your thoughts on the words, and add your feelings to our discussion. Fill out the form below to tell us your feelings about the terms “caregiver” or “care partner.”