At some point in your life, you are likely to either become or need a caregiver. One in five adults in the United States is currently (or has been within the last 12 months) an informal caregiver. Caregivers are the often forgotten backbone of our healthcare system. Without them, our medical system would grind to a halt. The economic value of family caregivers is steadily increasing, with the most recent estimation valuing their (unpaid) contributions at approximately $470 billion annually. In this article, we will define who is considered a family caregiver, explore trends in family caregiving, and discuss the typical activities a caregiver may partake in.
Are You a Caregiver?
An informal caregiver is someone who cares for an aging or ailing person without compensation. Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself to determine if you are a caregiver:
Are you concerned about the health and well-being of a loved one and check in on them more frequently than you otherwise would?
Do you help them with any of their daily life tasks such as errands, meal preparation, grooming, transportation, or medication disbursement?
Do you provide physical, emotional, financial, or logistical support to this person?
Or do you feel at all responsible for the health and well-being of this person?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are probably a caregiver.
An informal or family caregiver in the state of California can be the child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, or sibling of an aging or ailing adult.
Caregiver Trends and Demographics
Here are some quick facts about the demographics of family caregivers in the United States.
Approximately one in five people has provided unpaid care to another in the last 12 months in the United States. (Source)
The vast majority of caregivers provide care to one other adult (82%), 15% of caregivers care for two adults, and 3% care for three or more adults. (Source)
Almost one in four (24%) caregivers is a millennial. 40% of all caregivers are men, and about 40% of all caregivers are members of multicultural communities. (Source)
The average family caregiver spends over $7,000 annually out-of-pocket on care-related expenses. (Source)
If you’d like additional information about caregiver statistics and demographics, we have a full article available for you by clicking here.
Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities
The daily life of a family caregiver may vary significantly from caregiver to caregiver. Some caregivers will be needed around the clock to provide care and support for their loved one. Others will be needed less frequently for help with tasks like transportation and errands. For others still, it may just mean being the person on-call—ready to show up at a moment's notice in an emergency.
Regardless of the level of commitment, if your loved one depends on you in any capacity, you are a family caregiver.
Your individual responsibilities will vary depending on:
The ailment—if you’re caring for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s, for example, their needs may be more constant and demanding than someone caring for a loved one with a physical impairment.
Location and proximity—caring for a loved one who lives far from you may mean that your role is less hands-on than being a caregiver for someone who lives nearby.
The situation—many things can affect the level of care you provide or are expected to provide. These things include your cultural norms, the environment (a rural environment that may have fewer hospitals or amenities nearby, for example), the way the home is set up, (whether it is single-story and accessible or potentially hazardous, for example) what other obligations you have (work or children, for example), and who you can share the roles/responsibilities with (if anyone).
Daily Caregiving Tasks
Regardless of the situation, these are some common tasks caregivers are often responsible for managing:
Transportation and errands
Personal care and grooming (managing incontinence, bathing, dressing, etc.)
Feeding and meal preparation
Medication reminders and dispersal
Companionship and emotional support
Housekeeping and maintenance
Doctor’s appointments (and becoming the patient’s advocate)
Communication with other family members and friends
Financial obligations and bills
Becoming a caregiver, as you know, can take a lot out of you. It is a high-pressure role that many caregivers juggle alongside their other responsibilities, such as being a parent to a small child or a full-or-part-time job. The good news is that whatever your situation looks like, you are not alone. We at the California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County (CRC OC) are here to help. 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 call us at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you.