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The Love of Family Caregivers

Family caregivers of older adults demonstrate extraordinary love despite the challenges of this role.

Some people fall into a caregiving role gradually, for example an adult child who begins to occasionally assist a parent with tasks such as household maintenance and transportation, or a spouse who notices a partner’s forgetfulness and helps fill in the gaps. The individual may not initially view themselves as a caregiver, but as time marches on a dependence upon assistance for various activities of daily living may increase causing the caregiver to develop a more extensive focus on a loved one’s needs.

Other caregivers may find themselves suddenly thrust into the role when a loved one experiences a significant medical event. Either way, the responses of caregivers may initially be founded upon emotional attachments as a spouse remembers wedding vows of “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health,” or a child recalls a parent’s loving care while growing up and desires to demonstrate a similar level of dedication.

A sense of love and devotion becomes the basis for the care giving/care receiving relationship; however, the dynamics of the ongoing relationship will be influenced by many factors.

Some of these factors include the nature of the relationship (spouse/partner, child/parent, siblings, etc.), prior roles and functioning within the family, individual personalities, personal beliefs and values, economics, other concurrent responsibilities of the caregiver, the overall health of the caregiver, and the type and frequency of caregiving tasks. Each of these layers of the relationship may also change in priority according to the particular situation at hand, and exert a greater or lesser influence on the words and actions of both the caregiver and the care recipient.

While the beginning of a caregiving relationship may require only intermittent and clearly defined tasks, the future is unforeseeable and potentially unpredictable.  Without a roadmap to follow, caregivers deserve credit for their willingness to face the unknown.  Here are some helpful tips:

The complexity of caregiving is another reason why family caregivers deserve our admiration.  Changes in circumstances may result in a caregiver accepting additional responsibilities as time passes, and figuring out what, how and when to accomplish tasks can be a challenge. Caregivers may wind up providing assistance that he/she never dreamed of doing and performing tasks about which they have no prior knowledge, experience or training.

Let’s face it, some caregiving tasks are not very glamorous, romantic or even pleasant. How many of us want to think about the possibility of providing intimate care to a parent? Or battling an insurance company about coverage for care? Yet many caregivers find themselves doing these very things.

The volume and value of family caregiving which occurs in our country should also impact our level of appreciation for the commitment which is demonstrated by these caregivers. The services provided by these caregivers are essential to the stability of our society, as evidenced by a statistic from AARP’s 2019 Valuing the Invaluable report.  This report concluded that in 2017, almost 41 million family caregivers in the U.S. provided 34 billion hours of unpaid care worth about $470 billion .

Without these caregivers, how would the needs of our older population be met? Our current long-term care system certainly would not be able to manage these needs, either structurally or financially.

If you are aware of a family caregiving situation, you can support both the caregiver and the care recipient by providing words of encouragement or offering your time to run an errand or perform a helpful task. If you are a family caregiver, finding harmony between your personal and your loved one’s needs may be elusive.  Discover some tips for more efficient and effective caregiving at Keystone Elder Law’s free seminar “Caregiving Connection” on Thursday, February 27th at 3:00pm.  Location:  555 Gettysburg Pike, Suite B-300, Mechanicsburg.  Reservations are appreciated.  Please call 717-697-3223 for additional information or to save your spot.

Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN