Giving to a remarkable giver – the family caregiver


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By Bradley Yee

Giving to a remarkable giver – the family caregiver

We just experienced the season for giving, right?  Giving stirs up so many positive benefits.  To know that your giving touches the lives of those you love is precious.  Think of tangible ways to give throughout the year.  Can you think of giving a gift to a giver? Let your mind marinate in that question for a moment.  Now, let’s showcase a consistent giver – the family caregiver.  A family caregiver provides physical or emotional support for a loved one at home.  The loved one needs this care due to physical or mental illness, disability, or other conditions.  The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Public Policy Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving published a report entitled Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.  Here are some key findings:

An estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months.   Of these, 85% provided care to a relative.

In 2015, the US Population was approximately 320 million.  The 2015 report of Caregiving in the US determined that more than 1 in 8 providing unpaid care to an adult or child in the prior 12 months.  You probably know a family caregiver, or two, three, five or more, in your circle of influence.

Formidable task the family caregiver has

According to the above 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. Report, family caregivers on average, spend more than 24 hours a week in care to their loved ones.  Close to one in four provide more than 41 hours per week of care to their loved one.¹

The Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) such as dressing, eating, bathing, taking medicine, and toileting are by nature, constant.  Close to three in five family caregivers provided these tasks.  The more ADL’s a family caregiver provides, the more challenging the care experience is. Family Caregivers also provide Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) assistance which include: light housekeeping, grocery or other shopping and providing transportation.  Add to this the keeping of appointments: medical/financial/legal, and sorting through submitting paperwork and legal documents.  Patience, and a reserve of energy is needed for the many times family caregivers facilitate this.  It is easy to realize that a combination of all tasks may be at the moderate assistance to maximum assistance levels and therefore so formidable for the family caregiver that the tasks may be affecting their own health and emotional well-being.  Schedules may be impacted (think of those within the sandwich generations).

What constantly giving care could lead to

At best, family caregivers are healthy, well-adjusted to the task and have a positive mindset about caregiving.  At worst, they may experience weariness and fatigue, stress and depression.  The constant nature of giving could make them emotionally drained.  Often, they lose sleep, when they are awakened by the person needing to use the restroom, their need to be repositioned in bed, or to take medication.

According to the above nearly one in two family caregivers report that they feel that their health is very good or excellent (48%).  Seventeen percent report that their health is fair or poor.  In comparison, ten percent of the general population report that their health is fair or poor.  The longer a family caregiver provides care to a care recipient, the higher the likelihood that they will report their health as being fair or poor.  One in five report that they felt that their health has become worse as a result of caregiving. ²

The weary caregiver may be so emotionally spent, that they do not have much emotional support to give.

Family caregiving could mean that the caregiver has less time for other family members.  Accordingly, their quality of life could suffer.

What respite care is

Respite care is the relieving family caregivers of their task of providing care.  It is temporary in nature.  The goal is to support and maintain the existing relationship between the family caregiver and who s/he cares for.

Practical steps to help a family caregiver with respite care

Volunteering to sit and watch a TV program with the care recipient.  Praying with the family caregiver.

Taking on the most common tasks such as the Activities for Daily Living listed above.  Being present even if the family caregiver is in the home can bring a much appreciated positive change of dynamics.  The family caregiver can briefly chat with you while caring for their loved one.

You might be thinking, “Where can I find the time to help?”  You’d be amazed how family caregivers could really appreciated just an hour a week to take a needed break from caregiving.

Be creative.  Find ways that will provide relief of the constant responsibilities.  Keep suggesting ways to help, then be sensitive and politely assertive to assist.

 What the family caregiver could enjoy during respite care

Walking, running, reading, enjoying shopping for or just plain window shopping for non-essential items.  They can email a friend, catch up with the world and regional news, enjoy cooking, enjoy eating at a relaxed pace.  Enjoy a nice piping hot cup of coffee, tea or hot cocoa.  They can take the time to reflect.  Or just rest.  Your presence definitely provides a needed social outlet.

Benefits: sustains existing relationships. Provide much needed break. Family caregivers can get beyond the guilt that they need to do it all.  Family caregivers could set aside a relatively small amount of money to pamper themselves.  The joy they receive could very well boost their immune system; thereby avoiding trips to the doctor.  The money saved could from a doctor’s visit and downtime due to illness could possibly even pay for respite provided by home care aides coming in to assist.

The respite can provide the emotional ‘re-energizing’ needed for them to return to family caregiving with gusto and a renewed sense of purpose and joy.

Respite care also gives the care recipient a nice change, and someone new to interact with

The care recipient is presented with a new feeling that they belong to a greater community.  Their self-worth can improve.  Joy comes from new experiences, new adventures.  Providing respite care helps provide the care recipient with these new experiences.

Help if you need it

Christian Love Home Care is a licensed Home Care Organization, offering non-medical in-home assistance.  Our Home Care Aides would love to provide respite care to assist your family!  Please contact us if we may be of service to you:  Tel: 805-238-3500 email:


Meyer, Maria M with Paula Derr, RN (2002)  The Comfort of Home, 2nd Edition: An Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide for Caregivers.   Portland, OR CareTrust Publications, LLC

Six signs of caregiver burnout, AARP available here:

Caregiver Stress and Burnout Help – Trusted guide to mental, emotional & social health.  Available here:

AARP Public Policy Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving in 2015 Report Caregiving in the U.S. available here:


¹AARP Public Policy Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving in 2015 Report Caregiving in the U.S. available here:


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