Not All Caregivers Care for “Loved One”

  • We who write about caregiving often find ourselves challenged to find different words to express similar concepts in order to give variety to our writing. For example, we often substitute “loved one” for parent, spouse, relative or care receiver. In real life, not every caregiver is jumping with joy over caring for a parent who once abused them or an in-law who never treated them as one of the family. These readers can, understandably, be put off by the term “loved one.”


    In an excellent article on Huffington Post’s New Old Age blog, Paula Span speaks to this topic. In “The Reluctant Caregiver,” Span writes:

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    “Now and then, I refer to the people that caregivers tend to as ‘loved ones.’ And whenever I do, a woman in Southern California tells me, I set her teeth on edge.”

    I, too, have gotten emails and comments on posts from people who hate the term “loved one,” when referring to the care receiver. I do understand. From the letters I get as an elder care columnist, I’m aware of how many reluctant caregivers there are in our midst. Many of these people already feel guilty for harboring negative emotions about someone who has been rendered incapable of caring for themselves. Then, they read an article, one where they may completely agree with the theme, but they run into that dreaded term “loved one,” and the message of the article is ruined for them.


    When I have a chance to communicate with these reluctant caregivers, I always tell them that to give care to someone whom they resent, and still do it well, is admirable. I also let them know that they aren’t bad people for not loving the person they are caring for. Many times, I’ll tell them that they should only do what they can without compromising their own mental health, and then try to hire others to provide the hands-on care, especially if the situation could lead to continuing the cycle of abuse.


    The majority likely consider “loved one” okay

    A writer can’t – indeed, shouldn’t – please everyone all the time. We are here to inform our readers, hopefully comfort them, and occasionally to play devil’s advocate. Yet we do work hard to use the most exact words possible to express our thoughts.


    Naturally, parent and spouse are very different relationships, yet most readers don’t have a problem substituting in their mind “spouse” when I write “parent” if the rest of the words address their issue. Many of us are caregivers to aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and adult children and even non-relatives. Care receiver is a nice generic term that covers everyone, but rather cold and can get repetitive. In an ideal world, these people would all be “loved ones.” Yet, reality would point to many exceptions to that ideal.


    I’m not sure I’ll stop using the words “loved ones” anytime soon, simply because I must vary the language in an article to stave off repetition. My message, here, is that I understand that many of you don’t “love” the person you are providing care for. You may not even like them. And you may feel guilty because of that. Please try to drop the guilt. If your resentment is serious enough to seek counseling, I urge you to go that route. If it’s simply a matter of helping your spouse care for an in-law that you don’t particularly like, then I think you can skim over the term without it dredging up huge feelings of guilt. Meanwhile, I will limit my use of “love ones.” I like to be as inclusive as possible in my work.


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    Span, P. (2013, February 20) The Reluctant Caregiver. Huffington Post New Old Age Blog. Retrieved from

Published On: March 30, 2013