In a comment after my last post, my always astute (and caring) friend Mary Smith wrote that the word “carer” is used in England instead of caregiver. I looked at the word on the screen and had an aha moment of Yes, that’s exactly who I am.
But then she added “there is a movement against it, saying it is a patronising way of describing the relationship between the individuals involved.” Damn it.! I thought, bemused to say the least.
Language is such a tricky business these days. I don’t care about the “movement” or if I am being regressive. I love the term carer for the layers and nuance it holds. Getting rid of giver or partner, we are left with that fascinating, almost self-contradictory word care.
There is the the noun. Care as worry. The cares we carry with us daily. And must surmount. Actually the first definition that came up just now in my Webster’s Third (a wedding present way back when) for the noun care is “suffering of mind.” Wow. Forget those who may or may not be suffering duress from mental or neurological problem; suffering of mind sums up almost everyone I know who follows the news these days.
To care about someone or something means that person or thing or issue matters. Is important to the carer.
To care for can be physical and practical. That’s the meaning caregiver implies, at least to me. It is how I feel about myself sometimes when I have done a good job of maintaining a steady comfort level for Ralph and me. Also when I am exhausted after managing issues in Ralph’s life I don’t want to or when I am struggling not to react to him with impatience or annoyance (more often than I want to admit).
To care for someone can mean to take care of, but it can also mean to feel affection, whether that affection is polite and somewhat distant or a bit more intense and romantic (like my adolescent Victorian novel fantasies of a handsome man taking my hand in the moonlight to announce softly, “I have grown to care for you my dearest, very deeply.”
A carer has cares. A carer cares for and about others whom he/she may also take care of.
So basically CARER pretty much sums up Ralph and me and our situation–the good, the problematic and the bittersweet.