Who is a caregiver?
Caregiving comes in all shapes and sizes. At some point in our lives, many of us will provide care to a family member in need. While this is true for nearly 70 million Americans or 29% of American adults at any given point in time, most of us don’t associate ourselves with the term, “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. In other words, you are a family caregiver if you regularly provide tangible and/or emotional help to another person and feel responsible for their wellbeing.
What does caregiving look like?
The daily life of someone caring for another will vary broadly. Some caregivers may be needed around the clock for daily life tasks such as bathing, dressing, portioning medicine, or feeding the person in your care. Others may be needed less often for help with excursion and maintenance tasks (things like going to the doctor, grocery shopping, and retrieving the mail). It may also mean being the one on-call: prepared to drop everything if or when something goes wrong.
Whether the person lives with you as a full-time dependent or relies on you part-time, you are considered a family caregiver.
The roles you may be tasked with will vary based on a few factors:
The type of impairment. Someone with a mental impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia will require a lot more mental care from their caregiver than someone with a physical impairment. Similarly, someone who is temporarily debilitated due to injury may require caregiving only for a short period of time in comparison to someone in a longer-term treatment process.
Proximity. If you’re caring for someone who lives a long distance away from you, your form of caregiving may be less hands-on than if they lived nearby. Instead, your tasks may be more focused on gathering information, scheduling appointments, and coordinating nurse visits.
Your unique situation. Any number of factors beyond the above can impact the level of care you’ll need to or be able to provide. These include things like your cultural norms, your environment (whether it’s urban or rural), the way the home is set up, what other obligations you have, and who you can share the roles/responsibilities with (if anyone).
It’s a difficult road, but you’re not alone.
If this article resonated with you, then you are (or have been) a caregiver. You’ll undoubtedly know that being a caregiver requires a lot out of you - it can feel very stressful and isolating at times. To provide adequate care for a loved one it’s important to remember that you need to remain healthy yourself.
Due to the complicated and multi-faceted role you now find yourself in, you may also need help and support throughout this journey. Being a caregiver is both physically and mentally demanding and you don’t have to do it alone.
Even if you feel you have it under control now, as time goes on, you’ll likely face new challenges or need to learn new skills to continue providing care. This is where we come in. Think of us 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.