Tuesday Tips for Caregivers ~ What is a Family Caregiver?

Tuesday Tips for Caregivers ~ What is a Family Caregiver?

What is a Family Caregiver?

On ElderCare’s blog, we write a lot about the experiences of family caregivers. Today, we want to take time to define exactly what this role is. What does it mean to be a “family caregiver?” Understanding what this term means and what family caregivers do can help identify your role in relation to your aging parents. A clearer understanding of the characteristics of family caregiving can help you identify what actions you can take when it comes to your loved one’s long-term care.

In short, a “family caregiver” is some who provides care for an aging adult because of health needs. This includes those who provide care for an adult with serious health conditions, like dementia.[1] The role can be assumed by any one who is a part of an aging adult’s life. Most often, caregivers are spouses or adult children of those receiving care.[2] Becoming a family caregiver, as well as what roles they do, vary across ages and regions. Thus, you can become a caregiver at any age and experience an array of challenges depending on your unique situation.

Unpaid care and lack of preparation

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2015, 34.2 million American family members, neighbors, and friends provided unpaid care to an adult over the age of 50. Also, 15.7 million people provided unpaid care for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.[3] The economic value of this unpaid care is estimated to be around $470 billion. This is not a trivial amount. To put it into perspective, Wal-Mart’s 2019 fiscal year revenue was around $514 billion.[4]

Additionally, many people are never trained or prepared to become a family caregiver. Thus, millions of Americans have to figure out how to best care for their loved one, even with no prior experience.

What do caregivers care for?

Family caregivers care for aging adults who have experienced decreased health in some form, whether it is a heart attack, stroke, or a degenerative neurological disorder. Sometimes, these conditions are short-lived. As more and more people live past 70 years old, however, other disorders like Alzheimer’s are becoming more common.

What are some of the roles of family caregivers?

Family caregivers are informal advocates, coordinators, and health providers. They ensure that correct communication is being conveyed to medical professionals by accompanying their aging loved one’s to their health appointments. They will also play a crucial role in coordinating medical appointments for their loved ones. Additionally, they may even assist their aging loved one with taking medications, providing therapeutic services, or helping them move from a bed to a wheelchair or shower.

Does it all have to be done alone?

Institutions are realizing the gap between formal caregiving and caregiving done by family members. Because family caregivers are untrained, they can benefit from more education or from additional help. Organizations like ElderCare at Home provide family caregivers with professionally trained nursing assistants that are equipped to accomplish the complex care required for an aging population. Additionally, hiring a certified nursing assistant can provide family caregivers with temporary relief so they can rest and recuperate.

If you have additional questions, please call us at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.

[1] Families Caring for an Aging America

[2] Family Caregiver Alliance

[3] American Psychological Association

[4] Wal-Mart

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