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What is a Caregiver?


What is a Caregiver?

It is sometimes difficult to define exactly what a caregiver is. The caregiver role entails so many different tasks and activities it is sometimes easier to list what they do. At Upward Care we define a caregiver as any person supporting the wellbeing of someone who cannot fully maintain their own wellbeing. Wellbeing refers to the state of being happy, healthy, and comfortable. In most instances, caregiving activities are focused on providing assistance for activities of daily living but can also include something as simple as companionship. Caregivers are typically broken down into two groups: professional caregivers and family caregivers. Family caregivers are sometimes referred to as informal caregivers. According to AARP reports, there are currently 43.5 million family caregivers. For the purpose of their reports, they count a family caregiver as someone in the United States that has provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months. Of the 43.5 million family caregivers, 34 million care for an adult over the age of 50 years old.

Who are Family Caregivers

Eighty percent of Americans will serve as a family caregiver at some point in their lives. Historically, self identification of family caregivers has been a real challenge. In most instances, if caregivers do not self identify themselves as a caregiver they are generally less likely to seek additional resources that can really help their situation. As we have discussed, a family or informal caregiver can be anyone assisting another person with their wellbeing. This may include an individual helping an elderly neighbor or a grandchild assisting a grandparent. A large majority (85%) of informal caregivers are caring for a relative with 49% caring for an aging parent. The majority (60%) of family caregivers are female with the average age of 49 years old.

What Caregivers do

If you ask a caregiver what it is they do, they may respond with “Everything!”. Caring for someone’s health, happiness, and comfort can include many different tasks and responsibilities. According to AARP’s report, 59% of family caregivers assist with at least one activity of daily living (ADL). ADL’s are basic tasks of everyday life. These tasks typically include bathing, dressing, walking, eating, toileting, and transferring. Nearly all caregivers assist with atleast one of the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL’s). IADL’s are activities that relate to living independently. IADL’s can include shopping, meal preparation, medication management, housekeeping, transportation, means of communication and managing finances. The average caregiver helps manage 4.2 of the 7 IADL’s. In addition to IADL’s and ADL’s, caregivers are also managing overall care. They are monitoring changing conditions, communicating with healthcare professionals, and advocating for the care recipient.

The healthcare industry has continued to place greater responsibility on family caregivers. The AARP report notes that 57% of family caregivers are performing medical/nursing tasks. These activities can include injections, tube feedings, catheter and colostomy care, and many other complex care responsibilities. One of the biggest gaps that Upward Care has identified is the lack of training or preparation. 42% of caregivers say they are performing these medical tasks without any preparation and only 14% have received any training.

Overall, nearly every American will be touched by the family caregiver role at some point in their lives. Even if they do not serve as the primary caregiver it may be a sibling, spouse or friend. It is important to understand who are givers are so that we can provide the support necessary and identify the right resources for their situation.


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