Millions of Americans provide unpaid elder care services to family members or loved ones every year. These people often provide such care without any expectation of reward or even gratitude. Yet there comes a time when providing elder care services crosses the line between caregiving and caretaking. Though the two words seem synonymous, one relationship is positive while the other is damaging.
A caregiving relationship is one in which the caregiver and the elderly person both benefit. The caregiver comes away from the relationship feeling inspired, appreciated, needed, and with a sense of having accomplished something. Providing elder care services as a caregiver is a positive experience.
On the other hand, caretaking is stressful, demanding, exhausting, and frustrating. In a caretaker relationship the person providing elder care feels overwhelmed and unable to manage the task adequately. Caretakers will often feel as if they need to address every potential problem the elderly person faces. As a result the caretaker can begin feeling resentful, depressed, and angry, feelings that will not only exist in the relationship with the elderly person, but also with other people outside of the elder care relationship.
It’s often difficult to know when you’ve crossed the line between caregiving and caretaking. As a result, many people who are overwhelmed by the elder care process never recognize the difference and let the relationship damage their own lives.
If you are currently providing elder care services it’s important to periodically take a break and evaluate how it is affecting your life. Knowing when to ask for help and cut back on your duties can be a benefit to both you and the elderly person.