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Caregiver Insights

While every caregiving situation is unique, there are some responsibilities, challenges, and milestones that most caregivers share in common.

Caregiver Profile

Family caregivers or informal caregivers are people who provide unpaid care to family members, friends, spouses, neighbors, or anyone else who has disabilities, chronic illnesses, or are otherwise in need of assistance with activities of daily living or medical tasks. Nearly one in five (53 million) American adults are family or informal caregivers (AARP, 2020). Among them, 79% (approximately 42 million) care for someone over the age of 50 (AARP, 2020). For a deeper understanding of 50+ caregivers and the distinct challenges encountered by different caregiver demographics, explore AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. 2020: A Focused Look at Family Caregivers of Adults Age 50+.

Caregiver Responsibilities

“Caregiving” transcends a single definition, encompassing a broad array of responsibilities and emotions. Family caregivers have a unique role in the lives of their loved ones, with responsibilities that vary widely based on individual needs.

Caregiver duties might include:

  • assisting with bathing and dressing
  • managing medications and arranging medical appointments
  • providing meals 
  • helping with cleaning and grocery shopping
  • assisting with mobility challenges
  • handling financial responsibilities, including paying bills and dealing with insurance claims
  • providing emotional support
  • providing wound care
Each caregiver’s job description is unique, with their tasks and responsibilities reflecting the specific needs of their loved ones.

The Caregiver Journey

You may have heard that “caregiving is a journey,” but how that journey is experienced varies from one individual to another.

The California Caregiver Resource Centers identify 5 Common Stages of Caregiving. Understanding these stages may help you know what to expect as a caregiver as you move through each stage on your journey.

Stage 1: Expectant Caregiver

In the first stage, caregiving is anticipatory. You are not actively caring for someone, but know that the need may be approaching, perhaps due to aging or health complications.

Stage 2: Freshman Caregiver

The second stage begins when you start helping your loved one with tasks such as meals, errands, and doctor’s visits. It’s crucial to learn more about their health conditions and available support as care needs increase.

Stage 3: Entrenched Caregiver

In stage three, routines have been established and you may not have as many questions as before. This is often when caregivers notice their own health suffering from prolonged stress, a phase that can last several years.

Stage 4: Transitioning Caregiver

Stage four of caregiving occurs when you realize your role may be nearing its end, whether because your loved one’s needs have grown beyond what you can provide, they no longer need assistance, or you’re facing an impending loss.

Stage 5: No Longer a Caregiver

In stage five, your caregiving role concludes, leading to a unique period, where feelings of grief may be accompanied by feelings of relief. Allowing yourself to grieve is crucial for accepting the past and moving forward with your life.

For more information on the different emotions experienced in each stage, please visit The 5 Common Stages of Caregiving.

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