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Being a Caregiver

What is a caregiver?

A caregiver provides assistance in meeting the daily needs of another person. Responsibilities may range from bathing, dressing, feeding, transportation, grocery shopping, housework, managing incontinence, assisting with mobility, preparing meals, dispensing medicines, and communicating with medical staff.

Caregivers can be paid caregivers who have had training and education in providing care. These may include services from home health agencies and other trained professionals. Family caregivers provide care usually without being paid. Funding is available under certain circumstances, such as for veterans. Some programs may pay family caregivers as long as they aren't a spouse or legal guardian. Rules differ by state.

According to a 2020 report from the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly 1 in 5 Americans have provided care to either a child with special needs or an adult in the past 12 months.

Most caregivers (89%) are related to the care recipient. About half care for a parent. About 3 in 50 caregivers provide care to an adult child with special needs.

Family member or a private caregiver: What to consider

Caring for an ill, aging, or disabled person can be a rewarding experience. It can also become an overwhelming responsibility depending on the level of care. When this happens, it may be time to explore other home healthcare choices. This would include hiring a private caregiver. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering a private caregiver:

  • How much time is needed to help care for the individual at home? Is this likely to increase or decrease over time?

  • What skill level is necessary to provide the best care for the individual at home?

  • Are family members and friends capable of providing the necessary care without any one individual becoming overburdened?

  • How does the ill, aging, or disabled individual feel about having a private caregiver assist with their care? Are they comfortable with the idea of a private caregiver? Do they understand the caregiver's need for care assistance?

You will want to explore many choices if the decision is made to hire a private caregiver. Also, it will be important to acknowledge and include the desires of the person who will be receiving care. Consider the following questions in your search for appropriate care:

  • What services would be needed from the caregiver? (Try writing a job description outlining exactly what would be expected of a caregiver.)

  • Is the individual employed by an agency or organization licensed by the state?

  • What specific services will the caregiver provide? Do these services match your job description?

  • Will the patient's insurance, such as Medicaid or Medicare, pay for the service? If not, decide exactly how services will be paid.

  • What are the qualifications of the person or people giving care?

  • Will the same person or people always be available? Or will it be necessary to adjust to many different caregivers?

  • Does the agency or organization offer flexibility? Will care be available on weekends, at night, and on holidays, for example? Does the agency offer respite care to support family caregivers as needed?

  • How does the agency or organization make sure that its employees treat their patients and patient families with respect?

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
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