A caregiver is any unpaid individual who provides assistance with personal needs or household chores. It can be a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or even a neighbor. They may manage finances, arrange for outside services, visit regularly, or perform medical tasks.
The 2017 inaugural study by Transamerica Institute illustrates that caregivers have diverse characteristics:
- Women (53%) and men (47%)
- Gen X (22%), Boomers (37%), and Matures (7%)
- Work full-time (39%), part-time (13%), retired or not working (40%)
- Household income $25k-$49k (17%), $50k-$99k (30%), $100k or more (28%)
Most were caring for a family member but the family relationship varied:
- Gen X (42%) and Baby Boomers (42%) providing parent care
- Matures (57%) providing care for a spouse
- Millennials (14%) and Generation X (12%) providing care for special needs child
- Millennials (21%) caring for grandparents
It’s safe to say that most of us will become a caregiver for an older adult. Caregiving is not an easy role. Family and friends can find themselves responsible for a loved one without understanding what is required.
What Will I Need To Be A Caregiver?
Caregiving is a highly specialized skill. You must be willing and able to carry out the wants and needs of an older adult. You must also have knowledge of what’s normal or abnormal and how to find the resource available to help.
While many learn from trial and error, caregivers who have successful outcomes have certain skill sets or seek out professional support in these areas.
- Aging sensitivity
- Legal/financial powers
- Disease management skills
- Communicating and advocacy skills
- Organizational and coordination skills
- Planning and taking steps for later life security
- Understand and leverage aging networks: public and private
Finding Aging Resources: Public vs. Private
The public aging network was established under the Older Americans Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 14, 1965. It is a federal program administered through local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA as they are known). AAA contract with service providers in the community to help older adults remain independent in their communities.
The services are available to anyone age 60 and over and are not tied to income. However, funding limitations for in-home services can result in long waits. Senior centers provide enjoyable low cost meals, social activities and interactions that go a long way to reduce social isolation and improve healthcare for many.
In addition, no or low cost legal services help older adults plan for incapacity, distribution of their estate and other counseling for VA benefits and pension. If you are ever concerned about the well-being of an older adult, long-term care ombudsmen provide advocacy for institutionalized elders.
The private aging network varies by community and is not as well organized as the public system.
It is characterized as crisis, pre-crisis, and preventive. Outcomes are linked to planning for preparedness, caregiver knowledge, financial resources and the healthcare system you enter.
Before You Start
Our healthcare system is fragmented and oriented to address acute care, so it is no surprise that caregivers struggle with knowing how to become an effective caregiver.
Older adults typically see different physicians to treat different ailments. It usually requires multiple medications and increases the chance of a medical error or omission in treatment. Problems can be compounded during transfers in and out of hospitals, nursing homes, and/or rehabilitation centers. There is a strong need for caregiver education and professional assistance in managing care.
Being a caregiver can be stressful. Knowing what resources are available to support you can make the road easier and provide a better aging experience for your loved one.
If you have questions, we can help.