Who Are the Caregivers? The Answers May Surprise You
When a person lives at home with a chronic health condition or is nearing the end of life, most of the day-to-day care is provided by someone close to the person. Care can be supplemented by a hospice team, home health provider or others, but much of the physical and psychological stress falls on the family caregiver.
A report conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, found that caregivers are:
- 85% relatives
- 10% friends
- 3% neighbors
- 2% another non-relative
That 85% statistic doesn't tell the whole story. While the relative usually is the spouse or adult child of the patient, sometimes the caregiver isn't even old enough to make their own legal or medical decisions.
Kids as Caregivers
According to the NAC, more than 1.3 million people in the U.S. between the ages of 8 and 18 care for sick or disabled family members. They take on a wide range of responsibilities:
- Chores like shopping, fixing meals or keeping the patient company
- Hands-on care, including helping the patient with day-to-day activities such as bathing, dressing, toileting, getting in and out of bed and chairs, and feeding
Caring for Your Ex
The number of older Americans who have divorced and not remarried has risen more than 60% in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So it's perhaps no surprise that an increasing number of sick or dying people are being cared for by their ex.
The caregiver may still feel deep ties to their former spouse due to common experiences and child-rearing. While reunions in the late stages of life can lead to complicated emotions, some former spouses use the time to heal old wounds.
Caring for Aging Parents Who Didn’t Care for You
A recent study of adult caregivers found that 19% had been abused as children and 9% had been neglected. Providing care to a parent who did not properly provide care to you could be an opportunity to build a new relationship. Or it could mean putting yourself back into a position of victimization.
These caregivers need to be prepared to stop caregiving-temporarily or permanently-if the abuse continues. The potential psychological cost of attempting to care for an abuser is high.
- Caregivers of abusive parents are more likely to experience signs of clinical depression
- Those who decide to care for an abusive parent need to look after their own needs and maintain boundaries
As the U.S. population ages, more people will be put into these unique caregiving situations. Caregiving takes its toll in the best of circumstances; when the relationship with the patient is strained for any reason, a little professional support goes a long way. Healthcare and social services professionals can help families find resources to ease the caregiving burden.