Honoring the Dedication of Family Caregivers
The phrase “family caregiver” means different things to different people. For some, it might conjure an image of a parent caring for a child with a disability. Others might think of a spouse caring for a partner with Alzheimer’s. And then, there is what we consider the more typical family caregiver: an adult child who provides care for an elderly parent.
In a study titled Caregiving in the U.S., conducted through a partnership between the National Caregivers Alliance and the AARP, researchers took a long, hard look at who this nation’s caregivers are. The researchers examined what duties they perform for loved ones and the challenges they encounter trying to juggle so many important roles in life.
The results of this research may surprise you.
Getting to Know Family Caregivers
In honor of National Family Caregiver Month, here is a snapshot of caregivers and the duties they perform for loved ones.
- The typical family caregiver is a woman who is 49 years old.
- Almost one quarter of family caregivers are adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Most are the adult children of a senior, but some are the grandchildren.
- An average family caregiver devotes almost 25 hours each week to caring for their loved one. They assist with household tasks, personal care, and running errands.
- Some family caregivers carry an even greater burden: 23 percent provide 40 hours or more of support each week. Researchers refer to these family caregivers as “high hour caregivers.”
- Six in ten high hour caregivers perform medical or nursing care tasks.
- An average family caregiver has been providing assistance to their loved one for 4.5 years. Most expect this to continue for at least another five years.
- On top of their caregiving duties, almost 60 percent of family caregivers work at least part-time.
Easing the Burden on Family Caregivers
Juggling work, a family, and the demands of caring for a senior can be mentally and physically exhausting. According to research from The American Psychological Association, stress is a part of everyday life for a family caregiver. It’s a load that can take a heavy toll on the caregiver’s career, personal health, and happiness.
Studies show that family caregivers experience a multitude of health issues. The longer the role continues, the greater the number of problems, including:
- Recurrent headaches
- Back and neck problems
- Stomach and digestive issues
- Higher rates of depression
- Weakened immune systems
- More frequent episodes of cold and flu
What can friends and loved ones do to ease the burden of a family caregiver in their life?
We have a few suggestions for you to consider.
- Offer to Run Errands: Assist with errands. If you will be heading to the post office, drug store, and grocery store Saturday morning, for example, call the caregiver to see what they need from each of those stops. They might say “nothing” because they don’t want to be a bother. Ask again. For family caregivers, there are never enough hours in the day. Eliminating a few errands from their long “To Do” list will probably be a big help.
- Give Your Time: Offer to stay with the senior while your friend or family member takes a break. Giving the caregiver a few hours to themselves is probably one of the best gifts you can give them. Even better? Try to do this once or twice each month.
- Lend an Ear: Sometimes, family caregivers just need someone to listen. They might want to vent their feelings if siblings aren’t pulling their weight when it comes to helping care for a parent. Or, they could need someone to hear them work through the challenges of juggling career and caregiving. Offering support can help the caregiver cope with their emotional struggle.
- Explore Senior Care Solutions: Family caregivers often recognize they need a break, but don’t have time to explore senior care options. You can help by doing some of the initial research on their behalf. This could mean researching which senior living communities nearby offer memory care for adults with dementia, or exploring what types of respite care services would be a good fit.
Sunrise Senior Living
If you are a family caregiver, we have resources designed to help both you and the senior you care for. Go to the Caregiving Support section of our website to learn about initiating important conversations with a senior, addressing caregiver needs, budgeting, and more.