Caregiving roles take on countless shapes and forms. They assist older adults, the ill, and the disabled friends and family members. They help every day in small and big tasks. But if the caregiving responsibilities become too demanding, over time they become exhausted and stressed.
Close to 45 million Americans provide 38 billion hours of unpaid, "informal" care each year for older family members and friends living with chronic conditions that inhibit them from handling daily activities such as bathing, managing medications or preparing meals on their own.
Family caregivers, give over 75% of caregiving support in the United States. In 2009, the estimated monetary value of family caregivers' unpaid contributions was estimated $450 billion, which is how much it would cost to replace that care with paid services.
While people with disabilities and older adults receive care from paid professional caregivers, most count on on unpaid assistance from families, friends and neighbors. The list of responsibilities is countless but here are the typical tasks that care recipients rely on.
- Help to shop and buy groceries
- Prepare meals, clean house or do laundry
- Help with activities of daily living like dressing, bathing, administering medications
- Aid with transferring the recipient in and out of bed
- Assist with physical therapy, injections, feeding tubes or other medical processes
- Arrange the medical appointments and transportation to the doctor or clinic
- Order and pick up medications at the drugstore
- Discuss the care plan and needs with the doctors and care managers
- Handle a crisis or medical emergency
- Fill the designated "on-call" position for the family member
On short order, these responsibilities are controllable. But when illnesses occur and the demands become extensive, caregiving becomes a very big challenge.
Tips for new caregivers
If you’re new to the caregiving role, follow these steps to acquaint yourself with the position. Remember, it’s normal to become overwhelmed and confused. Take it one day at a time for best results and take it easy on yourself.
- Learn the family member’s diagnosis. This will help you understand the illness and how to plan ahead.
- Talk with the care recipient about their healthcare wishes. Start the conversation about finances and healthcare early on. Complete the Durable Powers of Attorney for finances and healthcare proxy to better prepare for emergencies.
- Get the entire family involved and have a discussion about what’s needed. Include the family member who needs care. This is the opportune time for each member to express what they need, plan for care and ask others for assistance.
- Locate community resources like adult day care services and meal delivery like Meals on Wheels. They help give relief and offer respite to the family caregivers. Don’t forget to take training classes to increase your know-how and confidence.
- Ask for help and support. Caregiving responsibilities get out of hand when you become isolated and don’t ask for help and support. Local and online support groups are very useful. They provide connection with others like you.