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Caregiver Curmudgeon’s
Communication Commandments

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  • Honor thy father and mother as they would wish to be honored. I think we should strike the phrase “parenting our parents” out of the lexicon. Even if many of the tables have turned and you are doing a lot of the duties for your own parents analogous to parenting a child, they have never stopped being your parents. How about “partnering with our parents”? Even if they cannot offer any support as we care for them, and in fact if their mental state offers specific challenges to the help we do give, I think it is imperative that they at least feel as if they are still in charge. Ask Dad’s opinion about what show to watch; give Mom a basket of mismatched socks to fold when you are doing laundry. Only you know what technique might work for your loved one

  • Speaketh ye with love about those whom we love. I love to read when the people for whom we care are referred to as “loved ones” or even “clients” as opposed to “care recipients” or “patients.” One should only be referred to as a patient by their own care professional (and even then, I like the word “client” better.)

As they say in elementary school, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Perhaps, but they can stigmatize and negatively define a relationship in a way that you didn’t mean for it to be defined.

I still like my favorite word for a family caregiver—hero.


Gary Barg

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