Caregiving: A Universal Occupation Who are Caregivers?

Posted On June 29th 2013

Introduction Caregiving takes many forms. Many of us help older, sick, or disabled family members and friends every day. We know we are helping, but we don't think of ourselves as caregivers. We are glad to do this and feel rewarded by it, but if the demands are heavy, over time we can also become exhausted and stressed. We think we should be able to handle caregiving roles on top of busy work and family schedules and begin to feel guilty and depressed as our stamina wanes. About 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, "informal" care each year for adult family members and friends with chronic illnesses or conditions that prevent them from handling daily activities such as bathing, managing medications or preparing meals on their own. Family caregivers, particularly women, provide over 75% of caregiving support in the United States. In 2007, the estimated economic value of family caregivers' unpaid contributions was at least $375 billion, which is how much it would cost to replace that care with paid services.1 Caregiving: A Universal Occupation Who are Caregivers? The short answer is most of us, at some point in our lives. Caregivers are daughters, wives, husbands, sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, partners and friends. While some people receive care from paid caregivers, most rely on unpaid assistance from families, friends and neighbors. Caregivers manage a wide range of responsibilities. In your family, for example, are you the person who: Buys groceries, cooks, cleans house or does laundry for someone who needs special help doing these things? Helps a family member get dressed, take a shower and take medicine? Helps with transferring someone in and out of bed, helps with physical therapy, injections, feeding tubes or other medical procedures? Makes medical appointments and drives to the doctor and drugstore? Talks with the doctors, care managers and others to understand what needs to be done? Spends time at work handling a crisis or making plans to help a family member who is sick? Is the designated "on-call" family member for problems?

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