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All too many times overwhelmed caregivers are physically and emotionally depleted and need to take time to rest and care for themselves. Believing in a holistic approach to caregiver stress and a strong commitment to helping our members find the right solutions, we created this blog to help you connect with others who, like you, may be facing the same eldercare issues and challenges. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and submit articles. Please forward the blog link to your family and friends. They'll be glad you did.

Warm regards,

Patricia Grace
founder & CEO
Aging with Grace

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More on Family Caregiving

Informal or family caregiving for an elderly loved one when they are ill or disabled is expected in virtually all cultures of the world and is generally accepted as the “norm” in most developing countries. In the US, family continues to provide most of the care and supportive services to older family members. The family contribution to health care represents between 70 to 80 % of all such care in the form of informal caregiving. Family members provide both short-term assistance (e.g. following surgery) and long-term assistance (e.g. for permanent or extended loss function such as loss of sight, mobility or cognitive impairment). Family members provide direct services (grocery shopping, transportation to doctors), the purchase of services (housecleaning, nursing services) and the management of services (coordinating and overseeing medical/rehabilitative or custodial care) as well as financial, emotional and social support.

Who becomes the primary caregiver for a frail older person? Usually it is the spouse, followed by an adult child, or other such relative such as a sibling, niece or nephew or grandchild. In terms of gender, the primary caregiver is most often female. While it has been observed the world over that women assume the bulk of responsibility in caring for elderly family members, 40% of the current caregivers in the US are men (husbands and sons). Studies have shown that wives, adult daughters-in-law and daughters provide most of the personal care and help with the household tasks; transportations and shopping for the elderly while men are more likely to purchase services or provide the management of services. Women sometimes leave the work force or work part time in order to care for frail relatives (generally spouses or parents) just at a time when they may want to work for retirement benefits in their own old age. Other women have responsibilities for frail relatives while adjusting to their own retirement, widowhood and reduced incomes. Many school age children may have parents or grandparents who provide care to an older relative and may themselves be involved in the caregiving activities such as grocery shopping or providing custodial care after school hours in lieu of extracurricular activities.

Due to increased longevity, many caregivers are now finding themselves in the position of becoming “serial caregivers” – providing support to a parent, then a spouse and in many cases to a functionally impaired adult child, or to grandchildren. An older adult caregiver may spend many decades in caregiving activities.

For many people, the overwhelming anxiety of eldercare issues may appear suddenly after an accident or unexpected illness. Having access to the right information and knowledge of available services and governmental resources can reduce the stress on the entire family at a time when quick decisions, with little or no preparation are necessary.


  1. Thanks for a thought provoking and sensitive post. It brings to mind that the care giver and their needs and problems are often overlooked in the general concentration of attention on the one who is being cared for.

  2. That is so true. I'm the one that has been caring for both of my parents and I have my own family (husband and 3 kids). I feel guilty most days because someone seems to be getting short changed. I think the title should be changed - it should read "Family careving generally means that only 1 of the kids provides the care and the other kids offer opinions that are not realistic." I guess that title would be too long although it would be accurate.


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