What is the difference between a care partner and a caregiver?
The difference is that of a one- versus a two-way street.
A caregiver is someone who provides care for someone who is unable to care for themselves. The term implies a one-way relationship between two people–one gives and the other receives. It suggests that a passive role is taken by the recipient of care.
However, caring is often a two-way street, and this balance of care is more fully captured by the term, care partner. A partnership is characterized by mutual cooperation and joint responsibilities. There are opportunities to give as well as receive by both parties in a care partnership. The term is more inclusive and egalitarian.
Why does this distinction matter?
Words can be impactful. The difference in how a relationship is defined can affect how roles are viewed, as well as the sense of agency that an individual feels. “Care partner” evokes a sense of cooperation and common goals. There is a mutual sense of purpose, as each person in the partnership has a role in the care and support provided.
This is not to detract from the role and value of caregivers in society. The distinction between caregiver and care partner simply captures a different type of relationship that is common among those living with medical conditions that deserves recognition.