New Year’s Resolution: Provide Care While Preserving Self-Efficacy

It’s New Year’s Eve, and introspection and goal setting are underway. Perhaps due to a year in which my husband overcame a blood infection caused by a specific bacterium, I’ve been thinking a lot about those who receive care.

We have all been receivers of care at some point in our lives, as children, when ill, or injured or disabled in some way. For many people, it’s not easy to receive care, and those who provide it aren’t always mindful of that. All too often, in fact, care providers or givers attend to physical needs of the care receiver but forget about the mental and emotional ones. They discuss general needs, status and progress with anyone and everyone but the person receiving the care. And gradually, sometimes subtlety and sometimes not, the care receiver ceases to be the person they had been. Concurrently, they often start to feel dependent. They lose their sense of self-efficacy and in doing so, become passive, fearful and sometimes resentful toward their caregivers. This can set the stage for a dysfunctional relationship between caregiver and care receiver.

Based on what I have seen, this dynamic is common—but not universal. There are people who are able to accept help gratefully and graciously, without ever giving up their personhood. I have come to the conclusion that it takes great strength for an adult to receive care gracefully. One has to have a deep, core sense of self to be able to accept help from others without becoming passive and fearful, dependent and angry. Paradoxically, truly strong people seem able to allow themselves to be dependent while remaining themselves.

Caregivers, of course, endure many burdens and stresses. However, my New Year’s-inspired thoughts this year are with care receivers—those in need of care—who bare heavy burdens and endure many stresses. With that, one of my resolutions this year is to make sure that I never lose sight of the personhood of the person I am trying to help. After all, what is the point of finding the optimal care solution for someone if we take away what makes them that someone?

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