What I’ve Learned About Caregiving

“Embracing a healing presence requires you to just be in the moment together.”
― Nancy L. Kriseman, The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey

I’ve learned so much about myself over the past couple of weeks as I’ve entered into the role of caregiver for my husband, Michael. He has been recovering from surgery and I’ve stepped up to the plate.
Before now, I used to call this process caretaking but now I have realized that it’s really caregiving that is taking place or one would hope that it is. And, this is, indeed, a spiritual practice. I’ve learned also that the difference between the two depends on the healthier and happier you are in your relationship with the person who is receiving the care.
A lot of the time, I have been doing one or the other. Many times I would find myself caretaking and just going through the motions and then I would realize what I was doing and shift into caregiving. It also took both of us to make this possible. Michael has been a very good receiver and has “allowed” me to give my love and care to him. That’s not always easy. I’m sure some of you have had experience in trying to help someone that resists or is difficult. It’s not a pretty picture, is it?
You also may have had family members or friends that attempt to help us by caretaking and it just doesn’t feel “right”, does it? We have a role in it, as well, or the dynamic wouldn’t keep going. So, it’s important to take a look at our part in that dynamic. It might help to remember that caretaking is rooted in insecurity and a need to be in control and caregiving is defined by an expression of love and compassion. The goal is to do as much caregiving as we can and to decrease our caretaking as much as we can.
Here are some key differences between caretaking and caregiving as written by Elizabeth Kupferman a counselor in Southlake, Texas. Thanks, Elizabeth, for making it so clear. It has helped me to refer to these as guideposts for this important spiritual practice.

  • Caretaking feels stressful, exhausting and frustrating.  Caregiving feels right and feels like love.  It re-energizes and inspires you.
  • Caretaking crosses boundaries.  Caregiving honors them.
  • Caretaking takes from the recepient or gives with strings attached; caregiving gives freely.
  • Caretakers don’t practice self-care because they mistakenly believe it is a selfish act.
  • Caregivers practice self-care unabashedly because they know that keeping themselves happy enables them to be of service to others.
  • Caretakers worry; caregivers take action and solve problems.
  • Caretakers think they know what’s best for others; caregivers only know what’s best for themselves.
  • Caretakers don’t trust others’ abilities to care for themselves, caregivers trust others enough to allow them to activate their own inner guidance and problem solving capabilities.
  • Caretaking creates anxiety and/or depression in the caretaker.  Caregiving decreases anxiety and/or depression in the caregiver.
  • Caretakers tend to attract needy people.  Caregivers tend to attract healthy people.
  • Caretakers tend to be judgmental; caregivers don’t see the logic in judging others and practice a “live and let live attitude.”
  • Caretakers start fixing when a problem arises for someone else; caregivers empathize fully, letting the other person know they are not alone and lovingly asks, “What are you going to do about that.”
  • Caretakers start fixing when a problem arises; caregivers respectfully wait to be asked to help.
  • Caretakers tend to be dramatic in their caretaking and focus on the problem; caregivers can create dramatic results by focusing on the solutions.
  • Caretakers us the word “You” a lot and Caregivers say “I” more.

What experiences have you had with care taking/caregiving? I’d love to hear from you. I truly would. I will be traveling over the next couple of weeks as we continue on our healing journey. I’ll post the next newsletter as soon as possible. Keep us in your healing thoughts!
Blessings on your journey, Beverly​​​​​​​

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