Recognizing the Vital Role of Family Caregivers

Caregiving is a rewarding job. More than just a career, it is a commitment. A caregiver is basically a person who attends to the needs of a dependent child or adult. More often than not, caregivers are hired professionals. These days, however, family caregivers are becoming more and more popular. In the United States, family caregivers (most especially women) provide about 75% of caregiving support to both children and adults. The estimated economic value of the unpaid contributions of family caregivers was at least $470 billion in 2017 alone. With this, it is important to recognize the vital role of family caregivers. Below are some of the essential things that you need to know about family caregiving.

What is a family caregiver?

By definition, family caregiving broadly refers to a wide range of unpaid care provided to a chronically ill or functionally incapable or impaired family member, partner, or friend. It generally involves services that go beyond the usual support provided in family relationships. To put it simply, family caregivers are people who provide free caregiving services to a sick or incapable family member.

In essence, family caregivers are almost similar to professional caregivers. Their main difference, however, is that the latter receives financial compensation, while the former does not. More so, family caregivers are also less trained and prepared to undertake caregiving compared to professional caregivers. Whereas professional caregivers usually undergo training and apply for the job, family caregivers probably do not anticipate this situation and are left with no choice but to carry out the responsibility.

What does a family caregiver do?

The main responsibility of family caregivers is the same as that of professional caregivers: to assist and attend to the needs of a sick or incapable family member. These needs vary greatly according to the care recipients, however. When the care recipient is an adult, for example, the main duty of the family caregiver is to assist with many IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) such as meal preparation, grocery shopping, housework, transportation, administering medications, and more. When caring for an adult family member, it is important for the family caregiver to negotiate his or her role with the care recipient.

On the other hand, when the care recipient is a child, basic support services such as monitoring the condition of the child, supervising his or her activities, and preparing a special diet are expected to be carried out by the family caregiver. In addition to these basic services, the family caregiver should also assist the child in keeping up with the academic demands of school and support him or her in socializing with other children as much as possible. Generally, in caring for a child, it is important to have a working relationship to establish boundaries and reinforcements.

What are the benefits of family caregiving?

Family caregiving has many benefits for both the care recipients and the family caregivers. For the care recipients, being taken care of by a family member is more comfortable than being taken care of by a professional caregiver. This is because care recipients already share a bond or a relationship with family caregivers. Both the care recipients and the family caregivers already know the attitude, character, and capabilities of one another, so opening up about their needs becomes a lot easier for the care recipients. Aside from this, family caregiving is also more practical and less financially constricting than hiring a professional caregiver. The care recipients, particularly, no longer need to be concerned much about the cost of their care needs because family caregiving is generally unpaid service.

For the family caregivers, on the other hand, family caregiving brings a great sense of ease because they no longer need to worry about whether or not their loved ones are receiving good care. By taking care of their loved ones themselves, family caregivers are being assured that the needs of their loved ones are being met regularly. Aside from this, family caregiving also allows the family caregivers to gain more confidence in their ability to handle anything. To put it differently, family caregiving becomes a training ground for the family caregivers. The challenges and difficulties of the role makes a person physically, mentally, and emotionally strong and well-prepared for life.

However, above all, the most important benefit of family caregiving is that it strengthens family relationships. It allows both the care recipients and the family caregivers to spend little moments together, and to realize the things that are truly valuable and worth prioritizing. As previously stated, family caregiving is more than just a job, it is a commitment.

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