Today, daughters, wives, husbands, sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, partners and friends supply 75% of the caregiving support in the U.S. Primary caregivers number about 44 million people and provide some 37 billion hours of unpaid, “informal” care for adult family members and friends.1
What does it mean to be a family caregiver?
A family caregiver can live in the same house with the person being cared for, or more than an hour away. He or she can do anything from helping with bathing and dressing to doing laundry to helping with physical therapy, injections or other medical procedures. A caregiver can make medical appointments, provide rides to doctors and also be the one to talk to doctors and care managers to understand what needs to be done.
While it is true that no one is getting medals for caring for an aging mother or a disabled spouse, the rewards for being a caregiver for a loved one can be significant.
In fact, 83% of family caregivers view the experience as positive, indeed, rewarding.2
People often say, “I could never pay my parents back for all they did for me.” The truth is you can … by lovingly caring for them when they need it most. It creates a tremendous sense of satisfaction and well-being. You want to feel needed? Caring for a family member can make you feel indispensable. You also get the satisfaction of knowing firsthand that your loved one is getting excellent care.
You want to nurture patience in yourself? Understanding? Loyalty? Being a family caregiver is graduate school for developing these virtues. And in caring for your parents, say, you are setting an example for your own children so that they may be there for you.
Sure, the rewards and benefits are intangible, but that does not make them any less real or less precious.
The good you do
Another obvious reward is the appreciation you get from the person being cared for. As a family member you are able achieve a natural intimacy and preserve your loved one’s dignity in a way that a professional caregiver would struggle to match. A lifetime of shared history creates its own unique comfort level.
In a very real sense, being a family caregiver is the definition of what it means to be family.
You have support
Despite its many rewards, being a family caregiver can be physically, emotionally and financially challenging. A quick internet search will reveal many sources of support, such as disease-specific organizations, local community volunteer organizations, or veterans groups .
You may also contact us at BAYADA. We can provide respite care when necessary to help lighten your responsibilities. Our compassionate and well-trained aides may be the next best thing to family. They are matched to your loved one’s needs, personality and interests.
No one can replace work family caregivers do. You are essential, not only to your own families, but also to society at large. Thank you for all that you do for your loved ones.
- National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregiving in the U.S. Bethesda: Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving, 2008 Update. Washington, DC: 2008; Family Caregiver Alliance, Family Caregiving and Long-Term Care: A Crucial Issue for America’s Families. Policy Brief. San Francisco, CA: June 2004
- Pew Social Trends: Caring for Aging Parents. http://pewsocialtrends.org/2015/05/21/4-caring-for-aging-parents/AARP.