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Caregiving Overview

Who is a Caregiver? 

A caregiver is anyone who provides help to someone who is in need of care. Caregiving may come in many different forms: providing hands-on-assistance to a loved one, advocating for a loved one at medical appointments, helping with tasks around the house, or offering long-distance support. 

For some people, caregiving occurs gradually over time, for others it can happen overnight. Caregivers may be full, or part-time, live with their loved one, or provide care from a distance. For the most part, friends, neighbors, and most of all, families provide, without pay, the vast majority of care.

If you are a caregiver, you are not alone. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, it is estimated 21% of households in the U.S. are impacted by caregiving responsibilities. Additionally, unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 90% of the long-term care needed by loved ones. Many family members and friends do not consider their assistance “caregiving”—they are just doing what comes naturally to them—taking care of someone they love. Often, care may be required for months or years, and may take an emotional, physical, and financial toll on caregivers and their families. 

Caregiver Health

Why is Caregiver Health Important? 

Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but the demands on your time may make it difficult to maintain your own physical and emotional health needs. This can lead to fatigue, anxiety, stress, depression, and serious illness. Being able to cope with the strain and stress of being a caregiver is extremely important to prevent what is known as caregiver “burnout”. 

The following are signs of caregiver “burnout” 

  • Feeling tired and run-down
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feelings of depression
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies
  • Withdrawal from social contacts, friends, and family
  • Change in eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased use of alcohol or stimulants

Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

  • Ask for help:  Ask and accept help from family, friends, or neighbors whenever possible. Explain what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and in what time frame. Try not to criticize others if the care is not performed exactly as you would have done it. The most important thing is that your loved one’s needs are met and you have the support you need.
  • Know your care options:  Understanding what types of formal services are available in the community and how to access them can be helpful. Ensuring there is a plan in place to allow you regular respite time is a crucial part of caregiving.
  • Engage in conversation:  Talking about your experience and feelings can make caregiving less strenuous. Connecting with other caregivers who understand what you are going through can be extremely helpful. Consider joining a caregiver support group near your home. 
  • Keep yourself healthy:  Exercising, eating well, and taking time to relax are key components to avoiding burnout. Taking care of yourself allows you to take better care of the ones you love. 

For Further Assistance/Community Support:

To learn more about working with a Care Manager, please call Customer Relations: 

1-800-701-9000 (TTY: 1-800-208-9562)  
7 days a week, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (From April 1 – September 30, representatives are available Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.) 
After hours and on holidays, please leave a message and a representative will return your call on the next business day

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Additional Resources:

Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Aging

American Geriatrics Society's Health in Aging Foundation

AARP Caregiving Resource Center

Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Center

National Institute on Aging