When I was caring for my father and grandmother, I didn’t think of myself as a family caregiver. I viewed it as auxiliary duties of a daughter and granddaughter. Guiding my dad’s feet into his orthopedic boots and cleaning out my grandma’s refrigerator was a part of our unspoken family agreement to always support and love each other. When I was providing care, I thought “caregiver” was the term for a professionally-trained health care worker. “Caregiver” didn’t apply to me: I didn’t attend school for caregiving, I wasn’t receiving a paycheck, and I wasn’t caring for strangers but my own family.
However, when I started working for ComForCare I learned there was a specific term for people like me: family caregiver.
To Whom Do Family Caregivers Provide Care?
Family caregivers aim to ensure the safety, well-being and happiness of their loved one, which may include a:
- Spouse, partner or significant other
- Parent, grandparent, in-law, aunt/uncle or other relative
- Friend or neighbor
Some family caregivers are born into their role, such as myself.
My dad was disabled due to undiagnosed diabetes and arthrosclerosis before I was born. Even though he couldn’t be as active as me, a child, he did all the dad duties: cooking for me, helping me dress and comforting me when I was distressed. Over time, I started doing the same in return.
Other family caregivers grow into their role, such as my mother. When my dad and grandma became ill, my mom became their caregiver. She helped them bathe, organized their medications and so much more. Those family caregivers, like my mom, may never have expected to become one and might feel overwhelmed. However,they have ample amounts of courage and big hearts.
There Are Many Ways to Be a Family Caregiver
Hands-on personal care (such as what my mom and I provided) assists with activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs include feeding, toileting, grooming, dressing, bathing, walking and transferring. However, you don’t have to help with hygiene or feeding to be a family caregiver. Consider yourself a family caregiver if you:
- Buy groceries and put them away for your loved one
- Declutter and clean their home
- Cook for them or help them prepare meals for the week
- Drive your loved one to doctor appointments or help them run errands
- Make room in your own home for them to live with you
- Help them to manage their finances and pay bills
- Check up on their well-being Keep them company
Those tasks are instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) and are necessary for independent living.
If taking care of your loved one doesn’t consume your day or week, you may not think of yourself as a family caregiver. However, some people may assist with their loved ones’ ADLs and IADLs for less than an hour each week while others spend 10+ hours per week helping their loved ones. Regardless of the amount of time, both are family caregivers.
Millions of family caregivers are long-distance caregivers, which mean they may not see their loved one often, but they still orchestrate their daily care, call them on the phone or video chat regularly and/or hold meetings with everyone involved in their care.
All caregivers have rich compassion, deep empathy and a fierce dedication to those who need their care. Once you embrace your role as a family caregiver, you can acknowledge how valuable you are and the importance of the care you give to your loved one.
Caregiving can be an invigorating experience, especially if you find self-fulfillment in supporting others. Remember to take care of your needs, though. When you continuously give of yourself, you may run out of emotional and physical energy. That’s why it’s important to rest, relax and recharge whenever possible. You may need to recruit help from fellow family members or invest in respite care. Know ComForCare/At Your Side is available 24/7. Contact us today at 800-886-4044 for a no-obligation in-home consultation.