Who are America's Caregivers?

Who are America's Caregivers?

We Are Family Friends, Neighbors and More

We are family, friends, neighbors, partners, and others who stand by those we love as they face chronic illness or disability. We provide essential, but unpaid services to keep our loved ones, safe, and as healthy as possible. We are family caregivers!

"The two parts of the term are equally important. 'Family' denotes a special personal relationship with the care recipient; one based on birth, adoption, marriage, or declared commitment. 'Caregiver' is the job description, which may include providing personal care, carrying out medical procedures, managing a household, and interacting with the formal health care and social service systems on another's behalf. Caregivers are more than the sum of their responsibilities; they are real people with complex and often conflicted responses to the situations they face."

The description above was written by Carol Levine, Director of the Families and Health Care Project at the United Hospital Fund of New York, and a family caregiver herself. Carol's distinction between the word family as the definer of a caring relationship and the word caregiver as the description of a job is an important one. Putting the two together as a single term is what distinguishes you and me from others who provide care, such as doctors, nurses, homecare aides, and members of the clergy, all of who think of themselves as caregivers too.

We share a common bond with each other despite the fact that some of us care for our spouses, while others care for parents, children, siblings or lovers, and despite the fact that we deal with a wide array of medical conditions and diagnoses.

A 70-year-old woman may be the around-the-clock caregiver for her husband who has Alzheimer's disease as well as diabetes and arthritis. She may bathe and help him dress, drive him to numerous doctors' appointment and administer his medication in their home.

A brother may rearrange his life and that of his own family when he brings his 40-year-old-sister with mental retardation to live with him when no suitable group home can be found.

A single mom may be wearing multiple hats as breadwinner, physical therapist, nurse, teacher and more as she tries to build a career and raise a son with severe cerebral palsy.

A daughter may coordinate care from afar with frequent telephone calls and travel, to arrange a workable care plan for her 85-year-old mother who has had a stroke, can no longer walk and is soon to be discharged from the hospital.

We are a diverse group of people of all ages and from all walks of life, some new to caregiving, some just anticipating becoming hands-on caregivers and others for whom it has become a way of life.

Source: National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA)