“We sometimes speak as if caring did not require knowledge – as if caring for someone is simply a matter of good intentions or warm regard. But to care, I must understand the other’s needs and must be able to respond properly to them – and clearly good intentions do not guarantee this. To care for someone, I must know many things.”
Yes – to care for someone, I must know many things!
I have the privilege of teaching our care teams in our Independent, Assisted Living, and Memory Care communities in the United States about how to embark on a courageous journey to change the world by embracing and evoking their power as educated caregivers.
Let’s make the invisibility of care visible as we gain specialized knowledge about human development.
Invisibility of Care
The deep assumption about caring is that it is something anyone can do, but we do not take care of human beings the same way we take care of a house or a lawn! We must know many things.
The way we touch others increases or diminishes their self-worth.
- The sensations of the body are the pathways to intellect and emotions. Caring routines involve engagement around bodily functions (elimination, cleaning, eating, sleeping) and therefore they hold the most intimate importance.
- In the past, caring tasks may have been viewed as custodial. In the emerging future, care is viewed as an honorable practice that requires specialized knowledge about human development.
- When we see the other as competent and capable, we practice caring as a conversation — a reciprocal exchange. We find ourselves doing things “with” others instead of doing them “to” others. We engage in relationship-planning rather than care-planning.
- We view care as a practice that nurtures another’s development, actualization, and self-sufficiency. This is the opposite of caring in a way that creates helplessness, frustration, dependency, or entanglement.
- Caring is associated with strength and power — not passivity or weakness. The other feels his or her wholeness in our caring response.
Caring and being cared for can give meaning to our lives
I believe that caring plays a much bigger role in our lives than you might think. The experience of caring can ‘shape us’, and help create order and stability in our own lives.
- Knowing – “I must understand the other’s needs and be able to respond properly’” and “I must know what my own powers and limitations are”.
- Alternating rhythms – Moving back and forth between a narrower and a wider framework- at times focusing on the detail, at others on the wider picture; sometimes doing, sometimes doing nothing; always watching and seeking feedback on those actions/inactions.
- Patience – “I must enable the other to grow in their own time and in their own way – giving the other room to live.”
- Honesty – This means being open to oneself and to others – seeing others as they really are and seeing myself as I really am.
- Trust – Trusting the other is to let go; it includes an element of risk and a leap into the unknown, both of which take courage.
- Humility – There is always something more to learn. Through caring, I come to a truer appreciation of my limitations as well as my powers.
- Hope – Through caring, the carer instills hope into the relationship.
- Courage – a carer needs courage because, as with any relationship, this is largely a journey into the unknown.
Caring is what makes us human. By educating ourselves and claiming the power we have to grow and impact others – we each have an opportunity to evolve into powerful change agents to be part of a movement creating a caring world. Let’s take this courageous journey as super-caregivers!
About the Author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada