Who, Me? I'm not a Caregiver.

Who exactly is a caregiver? People don't automatically identify themselves as caregivers - they think of themselves as simply one spouse caring for another, a child caring for a parent, or a friend taking care of a neighbor down the street. Yet a caregiver is anyone who helps an older person with household chores, errands, personal care, or finances among other things. You really are a caregiver if you do any of those things.

Caregivers

You are a family caregiver if you help an elderly person with any of the following things:

  • Driving to and from medical appointments
  • Communicating with health care professionals
  • Contacting community service organizations
  • Arranging for home health care or hospice services
  • Paying bills
  • Cleaning the house or arranging for housecleaning
  • Home repairs, yard work, snow shoveling

Those are just a few examples of what a family caregiver does. A family caregiver doesn't have to be a member of the elderly one's family in order to be considered a caregiver. Helping when a person needs assistance is caregiving.

Types of Caregivers

Caregivers may be related to older persons as spouses, children, in-laws, or other family members. Many caregivers are not related to the person but assist as friends or neighbors.

The caregiver role is complex and differs for everyone depending on the needs of the person who is aging. A 2001 study by the American Society on Aging found that 29% of family caregivers were daughters, 26% of caregivers were friends and neighbors. As such, older persons may have to rely on people other than family members to help out. 23% of family caregivers were wives, 13% of family caregivers were husbands, and 9% of the caregivers were sons.

Demographics from the Administration on Aging and the 2000 U.S. Census Data:

Doctor

  • Older Americans are the fastest growing population group.
  • The most rapid population growth is among persons 85+.
  • Between 2010 and 2030 there will be a rapid increase in people aged 65 to 84 as Baby Boomers become of age.
  • By 2030, one of every five Americans will be over the age of 65.
  • Someone in the U.S. turns 50 every 75 seconds.
  • People over 50 control 70% of the total U.S. wealth.
  • Over 50% of all Americans aged 65 and older have one or more disabilities.
  • Over 1/3 of all Americans aged 65 and older have severe disabilities.

A growing older population will increase the demand for special services. This means that health services, housing, and related community services will have to adjust to meet the needs of the older adults.

National Family Caregiver Support Program is one of those community services that have been created specifically to meet the needs of caregivers of older adults. Without family caregivers, the medical system would be overwhelmed. Family caregivers are the backbone of our health system today.