A caregiver provides assistance in meeting the daily needs of another person. Caregivers are referred to as either "formal" or "informal." "Formal" caregivers are paid for their services and have had training and education in providing care. This may include services from home health agencies and other trained professionals.
"Informal" caregivers, also called family caregivers, are persons who provide care to family or friends usually without payment. A caregiver provides care, generally in the home environment, for an aging parent, spouse, other relative, or unrelated person, or for an ill, or disabled person. These tasks may include transportation, grocery shopping, housework, preparing meals, as well as giving assistance with getting dressed, getting out of bed, help with eating, and incontinence.
If you fit the description of a family, or "informal" caregiver, you are not alone. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), estimates of 44.4 million Americans provide care as "informal" caregivers to people ages 18 years or older.
The majority of caregivers are women with the average age of 46; however, 39 percent or 4 in 10 men are also caregivers. It is also a myth that most of the elderly are cared for in nursing homes in the US; rather most long-term care is provided by family and friends in the home.
The National Alliance for Caregiving and United Hospital Fund, in a landmark study, Young Caregivers in the U.S., estimate approximately 1.4 million children in the US ages 8 to 18 are providing care to an adult. About 400,000 of the 1.4 million children are between the ages of 8 to 11. These child caregivers are comprised of 49 percent boys and 51 percent girls. Their responsibilities may range from bathing, dressing, assisting with mobility, preparing meals, dispensing medications, communicating with medical staff, as well as maintaining their school work.
Caring for an ill, aging, or disabled person can be a rewarding experience. However, depending on the level of care required and other demands on the caregiver's time and energy, it can also become an overwhelming responsibility. When this occurs, it may be time to explore other home health care options, such as hiring a private caregiver. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering a private caregiver:
If the decision is made to hire a private caregiver, you will want to explore many options. Also, it will be important to acknowledge and include the care recipient's preferences. Consider the following questions in your search for appropriate care:
A report from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) revealed an increase in the participation of "informal" caregivers to provide care for older persons with disabilities and a decrease in the use of paid "formal" caregivers. As a result, there is growing concern about the well-being of the "informal" caregiver. The National Family Caregiver Support Program can offer help and support in such areas as chore services, education, and counseling.
The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the HIP Health Plan of New York released a brochure at the White House Conference on Aging called Care for the Family Caregiver: A Place to Start.
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