Family caregivers come in all shapes and sizes. Many of us, at some point in our lives, will become a caregiver for someone we love. Should that day come, the responsibilities that will fall on your shoulders as a caregiver will depend on a few factors. Things such as your proximity to your loved one, the condition your loved one is in, and your individual situation all play a role. Despite the variance, there are common roles and responsibilities caregivers tend to handle (even if they don’t handle them all). If you’re curious about what a day in the life of a family caregiver looks like, we’ll explore that together in this article.
What is a Family Caregiver?
“A family caregiver is an official term used to broadly describe a relative (or close friend) that provides unpaid or informal assistance to someone (like a parent or spouse) with a debilitating condition.” (Source)
If you regularly help a loved one with day-to-day tasks or provide them with consistent emotional, physical, or financial support, you are a family caregiver.
What is Expected From a Family Caregiver?
Family caregivers, as we’ve touched on, have diverse individual responsibilities. These responsibilities depend on:
Your loved one’s condition. The duties your loved one needs help with will vary depending on how debilitating their injury or ailment is. For some, their care recipient may just require help to accomplish bigger tasks (like driving and running errands). For others, they may need intensive care to accomplish both the bigger and smaller tasks (like eating, bathing, dressing, etc.). Note: These roles and responsibilities may change over time if your loved one’s condition is chronic or worsening.
Proximity to your loved one. If you live a considerable distance from your loved one, it will be hard to be around as often as if you lived closer. Alternatively, if you live close to your loved one and your siblings or other potential care providers are further away, you may have more responsibilities due to your location.
Personal conditions outside of care. Your culture, your loved one’s culture, your job, your children, other adults in your care, and other sources of external responsibility can play a role in the level of care you provide.
What are the Typical Duties/Activities of a Family Caregiver?
A caregiver typically spends multiple years helping their loved one. This means that the role is subject to change over time as things change (or the disease progresses).
Here are some of the common responsibilities family caregivers may handle:
Personal Care Tasks
Personal hygiene tasks such as bathing, shaving, and dressing.
Meal preparation and feeding.
Daily walking or exercise.
Laundry and other cleaning duties.
Helping the care recipient in and out of bed, couches, or chairs.
Home Safety Tasks
Ensuring the home is free of slipping or tripping hazards.
Adding light fixtures in dark rooms.
Adding railing to stairs, bathrooms, and hallways.
Removing safety hazards (putting locks or other protections on the stove to avoid fire hazards, adding alarms to external doors if your care recipient has a habit of wandering, etc.)
Illuminating hard-to-see elevation changes.
Rearranging the home to reduce the number of trips to the second floor.
Taking them to doctor’s appointments.
Taking them to visit friends and family.
Patient Advocate Duties
Maintaining a list of diagnoses and treatments.
Keeping prescriptions up to date.
Asking questions of doctors and nurses when something is inconsistent or unclear.
Learning about your loved one’s wishes for care.
Advanced Directive Tasks
Getting a power of attorney.
Organizing a living will.
Formalizing a standard will.
Consulting with an attorney.
Keeping communication up-to-date with family.
Asking for help when needed from friends and other family members.
Holding family meetings.
Ensuring bills are paid.
Reviewing and settling bills with insurance companies.
Managing a budget.
Keeping them company.
Taking them outside.
Helping them maintain hobbies.
Taking them to visit friends and family.
Helping them maintain a healthy diet/meal management.
Taking them places that are fun.
Helping them enjoy the holidays.
Medical Care Tasks
Providing care can look different for everyone. Regardless of what your day looks like, being a caregiver is both physically and mentally demanding. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.
Think of the California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County as your free support system armed with the knowledge, training, resources, community, and experience to help you through this. Check out our free resources for family caregivers by clicking here or give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you.