Caregivers: Who are we? How many of us are out there?


Heather Jose

AS WE BEGIN our journey to reach out and connect caregivers, we should discuss who we are. Over time—as you follow our columns and as you respond to questions on this website—we will be addressing more specific information for different groups of caregivers. We know that caregiving can take on many forms and roles.

CAREGIVERS: WHO ARE WE?

This is not a complete list, rather it is a starting point …
MILLIONS ARE INVOLVED: More than 1 in 4 American adults are caregivers right now, according to a new Pew study. Most are responsible for another adult, often their own parent or a spouse.
CHILDREN: 1 out of 5 caregivers takes care of a child with disabilities or health issues, Pew found.
MANY WAYS TO CARE: Countless forms of caregiving include a friend caring for someone with cancer, a church member caring for someone in grief, a work colleague caring for someone who has experienced trauma.

CAREGIVERS: A COMMON SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

While each group presents its own unique challenges, caregivers have similarities. One commonality is that caregivers need assistance. For example: Most caregivers supplement the vital help they receive from medical professionals with their own research online. Pew found that “caregivers make extensive use of the Internet.” We are “voracious” Web readers of helpful information. About 4 of 5 caregivers search for online assistance—and that’s such an important part of their lives that 90 percent of those online caregivers have a high-speed Internet connection available at home.

CAREGIVERS: WHAT DEFINES US?

CLICK THIS IMAGE to read the whole Pew report.

WIKIPEDIA gives this definition: “Caregiver” is the term Americans, Canadians and Chinese use to describe us. People in the UK, Australia and New Zealand prefer to use the word “carer.” Wikipedia says those words “refer to unpaid relatives or friends of a disabled individual who help that individual with his or her activities of daily living.” Wikipedia has much more.

PEW’s July 2012 report gives this definition: “Women are slightly more likely than men to be caring for a loved one, as are adults ages 50-64, compared with other age groups. Caregivers are more likely than other people to report that they themselves are living with a disability, 34% compared with 24%. The call to aid a loved one cuts across all other boundaries: those who work full-time and those who are retired; those who have children at home and those who do not; those who are married and those who are single; those who enjoy a high income and those who do not. All of these groups are equally likely to say they are caring for an adult or a child who needs their help.”

CAREGIVERS: HOW ARE WE THRIVING EACH DAY?

We will talk more about this question in coming weeks. One short answer is: We assist with “activities of daily living” (ADLs)—tasks people need to accomplish each day. From getting dressed or making a sandwich, to paying bills or managing medications—these are all ADLs. Caregivers find themselves performing a myriad of tasks for their loved ones. The simple truth I hope you’ll remember this week is: Whatever you find yourself doing as a caregiver—there are millions of other people doing the same thing today. You’re not alone.

GET INVOLVED: Tell us about yourself. Upload a Godsigns photo through the link at left. Leave a comment by typing in the “Share Your Thoughts” box below. Please, share your own caregiver story. We would love to know more. Who are you caring for? Have I mentioned your group or your daily activities today? How much time are you devoting to caregiving each week? How long have you been doing this? And, when you’re searching online, what’s the most important way we can help you?

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Comments

  1. Susan Stitt says:

    Heather,

    I had a profound experience the first time that I identified myself as a caregiver. I had volunteered with the American Cancer Society for years, when I was at a conference and the speaker asked anyone who’d been a caregiver to stand up. She then went on to explain some of the duties that a caregiver may perform. The list included the usual ones, but then she included some that were not so ‘usual’. Suddenly, an sixteen year old girl who washed her Mom’s hair with dry shampoo in the hospital was qualified as a “caregiver”. The same sixteen year old girl qualified as a caregiver when she chose clothing for her Mom’s best friend to wear to her husbands unexpected funeral, while her Mom was hospitalized and unable to perform her best friend duties. It was quite a moment. It changed the way I looked at myself, and changed the way I described a caregiver for the rest of my life. When my own best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew that I had to step up and perform a different list of care giving duties, after all, I had previous experience!

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