The Heart of Caregiving

The Heart of Caregiving

On the first Sunday of March, family, friends, and team members gathered at Blakeford to hear the reading of names and the ringing of a bell to honor and remember each of those residents who had passed in 2015. Ceremonies like these can be an important part of the healing process when one faces a loss. This is because they honor the relationship that is very much alive in one’s memories.

Expressed feelings of recent grief and loss were also very present as current residents, family, friends, and team members assembled for the service. There was a palpable need for space to acknowledge those losses and the various relationships surrounding them.

Spending time with family members and various caregivers through some of these losses brings to light the significance of relationship, particularly that of caregiver. In the past few months, I have observed some exceptional caregiving taking place here at Blakeford by both family members and various team members. This begs the question: What defines a caregiver?


That word is multifaceted isn’t it? There is the act of caring, the feeling of caring, and the vocation of caring. They can be carefully delineated and separated such as a vocational caregiver who might separate the vocation of caring (actions) from the emotion of caring (feelings). Or perhaps it might be a family member who seeks to separate the emotion of caring from the role (act) of caring for a loved one. There is, after all, risk in emotionally caring in the process of giving care, especially in the vocation of caregiving. However, this genuine caring is both sensed and observed by all who are touched by it. It is what sets the bar for exceptional caregiving. It is about nurturing caring relationships.


A chaplain is a giver of pastoral/spiritual care, which has its roots in the Latin term cura animarum (cure of souls), or as better understood as care of souls. While my particular area of caregiving is just that, particular, it is a type of care given to a whole person, their families, and loved ones. All of those particular types of care given affect a person’s sense of well being. They are also opportunities to build and nurture relationships. This is true for any givers of care, be it skilled professional medical care, meal servers, housekeeping, maintenance, technology, drivers, etc. Perhaps it is even between residents or among residents’ family members supporting one another. When lives intersect, as they do within community, genuine compassionate caring is essential. Anyone can find themselves presented with an amazing opportunity to make a difference by offering such care. It is a moment, or series of moments when vocation, action, and feeling all intersect nurturing a sense of interdependent relationships.

Perhaps this is why one did not need to look hard around the room on that first Sunday in March to find team members, friends, loved ones, and family gathered together in community, caring for one another as they smiled, cried, and remembered relationships that will continue to live on because of their broad sense of genuineness and compassion. That is caregiving.

For information on caregiving:
National Alliance for Caregiving

For information addressing grief in caregiving:
Family Caregiver Alliance

Chaplain Sherry Perry received her Master of Divinity from the Vanderbilt Divinity School, is Board Certified by two chaplain certifying bodies, and is a graduate of the Clinical Pastoral Education program.