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The Caregiver's Cairn: The Art of Receiving


Blog by Jane Barton

Greetings one and all...

Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and take a deep breath. Today, I want to chat about the nature of caregiving - giving and receiving care. If you are like most people I encounter throughout the United States, you are much more comfortable giving care as opposed to receiving care. Certainly my preference! And because of that preference, we often find it difficult to ask for and to receive help from others. Our resistance to receiving often adversely affects our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. So, how can we master the art of receiving?

We must recognize the sources of our resistance. Quite often, our attitudes related to giving and receiving care are rooted in family and cultural norms, traditions, and legacies. How did you learn to care for others? What caring behaviors did you witness in your family as a child? Did your family accept help from friends and neighbors during times of need? Or, was it shameful to request help from others? We learn so much by observing the caring behaviors of our family and friends, don’t we? And quite often, we perpetuate family legacies of caregiving even when the behaviors no longer serve us well.

Today, the journey of caregiving is quite different from that of previous generations due to increased life expectancy, medical technology, and the increased incidence of chronic illness. The majority of us will be required to give and to receive more care than we dare to contemplate. Whether caregiver or care receiver, we will need help along the way. So, we would be wise to become more artful in our ability to graciously receive the needed help.

So, how are we to learn the art of receiving? Well, interestingly enough, we were born knowing how to receive. Infants are quite adept at graciously receiving care. Bottles. Clean diapers. Love and affection. All kinds of care. Infants are care receiving artisans! However, as humans mature physically and cognitively, we opt to become independent and self-reliant. We exchange interdependence for autonomy. Subsequently, our skills of reception become somewhat rusty or even forgotten. Thus, becoming artful care receivers is a process of relearning, remembering, and reclaiming who we essentially are. Yes, we are called to care for others over the course of a lifetime. However, to realize our full potential, we must allow others to care for us as well. Fully human. Caregiver and care receiver. Isn’t it always the case? From the mouths of babes...

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.organd we will be in touch soon!


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