We're Caregiving Professionals so What's Our Professional Name?


We're Caregiving Professionals so What's Our Professional Name?

Last month, I attended the Aging in America annual conference sponsored by the American Society on Aging. I attended sessions in the Caregiving track, which featured presentations from researchers, providers and clinicians.

I so appreciate the opportunity to network during events like these -- connecting with professionals who share a passion is invigorating. My frustration, though, is the focus at these events stubbornly remains on the discussion that "family caregivers don't self-identity." I've written endlessly about this issue over the years (Read "What If We Assume Everyone Is?"), spoken up at every conference and implored individuals to let go of this discussion point and move on. We don't call ourselves family caregivers but that doesn't mean we don't know that we're helping and caring and worrying. We get what we're going through.

Because we haven't moved on, we haven't effectively mobilized to help those who care for a family member (family caregivers). We have so many individuals caring for a family member who manage significant stress and challenges without the help they deserve. Yet, conversations at conferences continue to be the same ones I heard twenty year ago. A colleague I've known for twenty-plus years confirmed this to me as well during this year's conference. "We're talking about the same stuff about caregiving that we did 20 years ago," he said.

If any organization has proven that "family caregivers don't self-identify" is a mute point, it's Facebook. You don't have to spend much time on Facebook before finding hundreds of caregiving groups where those who care for a family member convene to share and support. Family caregivers use Facebook because it provides what family caregivers need -- a way to connect with each other. Facebook doesn't care if we call ourselves caregivers or family caregivers or sons, daughters, siblings or spouses. Facebook doesn't worry about how we identify because it only focuses on solving a problem -- creating an easy way for us to stay connected. (I have issues with Facebook for other reasons but that's for another day.)

I'm just so tired of the same conversation.

I'm reminded of the immortal words of ad man Don Draper of Mad Men fame: If you don't like the conversation, change it.

So, let's change it.

We're professionals in our caregiving role. We provide the same level of care and manage the same kind of responsibility as our health care partners. We're also sons, daughters, spouses, parents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, cousin and siblings.

We're professionals in the care of our family members.

What's our professional name? Family caregiver? Family care manager? What's your idea?

I'd love for us to create a name for our profession. Here's how we'll do it:

  1. Submit an idea for our professional name via the form at the bottom of this past.

  2. Deadline to submit your name is June 8. (Note: I've extended our deadline from June 1 to June 8.) Your submission is, in essence, a donation. With your submission, you acknowledge you will not receive reimbursement for our use of the term and you will not retain a copyright or trademark.

  3. I'll review the names and narrow down our list to the best 10.

  4. Between June 9 and June 16, we'll vote on those 10 chosen names. The name with the most votes becomes our professional name.

  5. The individual who submits the winning name will receive $100 and will join me on an upcoming episode of my podcast, Your Caregiving Journey. You also will receive credit for our name in our Caregiving Co-op and lifetime free registration to our Co-op.

We did something similar just about 10 years ago when a Caregiving.com member suggested we find a different term for "care recipient," the term we used for the family member receiving our care. We held a contest, adopted caree and never looked back.

Once we have a professional name, we'll tackle our next steps:

  • Create a certification program available through our Caregiving Co-op. Our certification program will include training so that we have the knowledge and support we deserve. Once certified, we'll be called Certified (insert winning name of our profession).

  • Through our certification program, we'll establish our standards of excellence.

  • With a standards of excellence and certification program in place, we'll begin outreach to get paid for what we do. For instance, our caree's long-term care policies and Medicare Advantage plans could be potential opportunities for us. Medicaid waivers already may provide the opportunity; we'd love to expand the opportunities. Because we will be the solution, want to control our own standards of excellence rather than having another entity do that for us.

  • We position ourselves to be the effective solution the shortage in professional caregivers. Because we don't have enough home health aides and Certified Nursing Assistants, more and more responsibility will fall on us. What if the money that would be spent on aides and CNAs instead became our reimbursement? We'll be doing the work anyway; why not get paid?

  • As professionals, we can organize to receive benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan. (Thanks so much to Julie Fleming for this idea. I reached out to several colleagues, including Julie, @srhall419 and @bethsuereth, to discuss the idea of creating a professional name. I wanted to make sure I wasn't completely daft in making this suggestion.)

  • If we take a leave of absence from work to care for a family member, we can include our professional name and description on our resume to reflect our professional work during that time period. We no longer have a gap but professional experience with transferrable skills.

We're sons, daughters, spouses, parents, grandchildren, cousins, siblings, nieces and nephews. We're also professionals in caregiving. I look forward to reading your ideas for our professional title.

Update: Thanks so much to those who voted!! The winning name for our profession is Family Care Manager. I’ll send $100 to Dale Welch, one of three who submitted this name in our contest. Lisa B Capp and I also submitted this name. Dale also will join me on a future podcast and will receive a free membership to our Caregiving Co-op.

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