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The Role of Caregivers
The Important Duties of a Caregiver

Who is a Family Caregiver?

A "family caregiver" is member of a family who gives physical, emotional care and/or financial assistance to an aging relative, to an ill or disabled loved one; at home, in a medical facility, or residential care community.

The person receiving care is a loved one living with a chronic illness, physical limitation, mental illness, dementia or Alzheimer's disease, or another medical condition.

Types of family caregivers:

  • Parents
  • Adult children
  • Spouses
  • Family members
  • Neighbors
  • Friends

The Role of Family Caregivers

Care for the Recipient

Role of Family Caregiver
Role of Family Caregiver

A loved one needing care is the care recipient and deserves to stay involved in the care decisions, unless he's lost the capacity to make prudent decisions for himself and not put others in harm's way.

Freedom to choose begins with simple decisions like what to eat or what to wear. As a person's capacity lessens through health, it's the family caregiver's responsibility to make sure the loved one participates in their own care program.

If the care recipient is capable of performing activities like paying bills, meal preparation and cooking, shaving and dressing, don't stop him from doing his self-care and maintenance. If you do, you'll rob him of feeling independent and more resentful to your helping him.

Loved ones, especially older adults, find it very hard to depend on another family member. Most worry about being a burden. So, it's a balancing act. Doing just enough for him, but at the same time not getting in the way of his independence is the best approach.

Care for the Caregiver

Family caregivers many times put off their own health care and wellness. They do too much for others and not enough for oneself.

Giving care to a loved one while working full-time, leads to exhaustion and depression. Take the first step in caring for yourself by making time to do the things and activities you enjoy most; hobbies, visiting friends, and maintaining close relationships.

Family caregivers who take frequent breaks have less stress and minimal burnout. Count on others, like siblings, to help out with elder care tasks.

Your friends and family will help you counter elder care burnout and caregiver stress.

Long Distance Caregivers

When living far away from loved ones, count on professional home-health agencies, geriatric care managers, social workers, and community resources to help direct and oversee loved one's needs.

  • Home health care includes assistance with fitness, wound care, physical therapy, monitoring chronic conditions and administering medications.
  • Geriatric or private care manager assists individuals with all types of care and best fits a long distance caregiver's needs, They assess and monitor a loved one's care requirements and arranges for the services.
  • Housekeepers perform basic household tasks and light cleaning and some cooking.
  • Personal care workers give care, assistance with medication, meal planning, and household management.
  • Companions offer personal care, light housework, exercise, companionship, and medication reminders.

Expect to Play these Roles as a Family Caregiver

Caregiving is a job and you will need to learn new skills, and shift from being a son to a caretaker, track health care, and perform demanding tasks.

To prepare for the role, one must consciously step into it by changing one's mind about being a caregiver, not a son.

  • As a family caregiver you'll perform some or all of the following tasks:
  • Assist with personal care activities like dressing, bathing, toileting, feeding
  • Provide transportation for medical and personal appointments, run errands, attend to medical emergencies or crises
  • Perform household duties like grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, picking up prescriptions, cleaning
  • Oversee finances like paying bills, managing their bank account, keep the financial books (bookkeeping)
  • Administer medications, perform medical and nursing procedures, communicate with the medical care team
  • Providing emotional support and companionship (talking, reading, and listening)
  • Organize care at home; supervise and communicate with home health care and/or home care personnel and staff

Know that sometimes you'll feel uncomfortable with performing these tasks.

It'll help to find support and share your feelings. Find an uninvolved party to listen to your concerns and who's open to giving comfort. You'll be able to cope with stress better.

Places to go for support:

Primary Caregiver Role

If you are the primary family caregiver, their care needs will fall on you. This is overwhelming and strenuous, if you try to handle all of the responsibilities on your own. It's simply impossible.

  1. Make a Plan of Action
  2. Figure out your loved one's needs by listing the activities needed - helps you to properly care for the individual.
  3. Ask for help - ask a friend or another family member if they can participate. Then review the list of needs - the areas they can help.
  4. Explain the tasks and what they could do - make sure they understand what's most helpful.
  5. List out what you can do on your own. Once you determine exactly what's needed, assess your resources. Some require assistance.
  6. List out the ones other people can do. Asking for help minimizes stress and exhaustion. Check off the tasks you'll need help getting done.
  7. Identify family and friends to help you out. It's helpful knowing which family members and friends have the most useful skills.
  8. Get outside professional help. Find local nursing care, home care, housekeepers, transportation companies, or respite care.

The Caregiving Role

Fact: It's an important role, one that you'll never regret. It's difficult and you're not prepared for it.

Being a family caregiver for a spouse, parent, child or loved one takes time, effort and work.

It's challenging intellectually, emotionally, physically, and financially. Stepping into the role may happen suddenly and without warning, or perhaps your role evolved slowly over time. Either way, you deserve reliable resources and helpful tips to take care of your care loved one and yourself.

Always remember: Your primary role is to care for yourself. Without it, you're level of care for another lessens.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.