Caregiver 101

Being a caregiver is an important role. Without caregivers, people requiring care for Alzheimer disease or general end-of-life care are on their own for vital, common tasks. That being said, caregivers require care, too. It’s a demanding job with extremely varied work conditions and, often, little respect, support, or recognition.

What Do Caregivers Do?

Caregivers are there as a support, as frontline first responders, and as companions to people requiring assistance with daily living. There are countless tasks a caregiver takes on, from shopping for food, cooking, cleaning, and helping their care receiver get dressed and ready for activities, to handling medical appointments and monitoring medications, to dealing with crises and liaising with other members of the caregiving team.

Caregivers do this work because they want to serve those who need assistance. That being said, those employed by for-profit agencies may struggle to find value in their work when they are paid little while people at the top rake in the profits. The rates of home health aides and professional caregivers are in decline, while society faces a critical demand for people who do this work.

What Care Do Caregivers Need?

Supporting caregivers is vital if we want to keep people in the field as the healthcare demands of an aging population grow.

Caregivers need support in the form of training and preparation, especially considering how many people are flung into caregiving not out of choice, but out of necessity as family members face health issues. Caregiving is intensive work which doesn’t always leave time for the professional development that can sustain a caregiver, and give them the confidence and skills to handle any situation.

Caregivers require, and deserve, emotional support too. Caregivers pour themselves out in service of others and may end up burned out and feeling depleted, without the energy or resources to take care of themselves, too. Caregivers may feel overwhelmed, worried, tired, or irritable, and may face physical challenges like headaches and tension, or alcohol or drug abuse.

Peer support from other caregivers, the empowerment that comes from having a supportive work environment, and realistic expectations all go a long way in managing caregiver stress. It can be hard for caregivers to ask for help, but making it available without asking is a simple solution. Above all, caregiver support, in all forms, is an integral part of the overall culture of care.