Sunnyside Village Cohousing

Caregiving vs. Being Neighborly

Caregiving VS Being Neighborly
Members at Sunnyside look forward to the day we can come together for community meals, celebrations, game night, movie night, working in the gardens, tending the chickens, cookie contests and other fun activities. Yet, recently a topic came up at a happy hour that wasn’t so happy. It went something like this: what is the difference between taking care of our neighbors and friends versus caregiving for our neighbors and friends at Sunnyside? Caregivers can come in a number of different types: professional, independent, private, informal and volunteer. How does a cohousing community factor into all of these?

I believe taking care of others is what attracts many of us to cohousing. This could mean anything from taking over a pot of soup to someone who is not feeling well, picking up something at the store, borrowing a cup of milk, watching someone’s cat or watering plants while they are away. The opportunity to be of help to our neighbors can be meaningful and rewarding. There are many acts of kindness that fit under the umbrella of taking care and being neighborly.

Caregiving for one’s neighbors has a very different meaning to me probably because of my medical background so I think it important to make sure we understand the difference between being neighborly and caregiving. Caregiving can be a skilled and professional twenty-four hour job. If and when a community member needs care from a professional, the community will welcome the professional. Some community members might even be able to share caregivers, ensuring that the caregiver will have multiple clients in our community, perhaps making their shift more efficient.

We will be putting together a Care Team which will help each of us state what is realistic and what our preferences are for the unexpected (as much as possible). Who are our emergency contacts? At what point will we need help with our daily living and how will we know? What organization or agency should be contacted to provide professional help? We will want to work together to come up with plans so we can let our neighbors know what our preferences are for the unexpected both as a community and as an individual. We want our neighbors to be our friends, not professional life support.

Maybe you already have a plan, good for you! Life is not always light and easy and we at Sunnyside want to be prepared as neighbors.
A quote from John Lennon goes like this, “living is easy with eyes closed misunderstanding all you see”. Let’s open our eyes to the realities life can bring. I believe this conversation is a good start. Won’t you join us?

My name is Kim and I am an equity member at Sunnyside Village Cohousing. I have been a registered nurse for 25 years, the last decade working in long term care with veterans.