Lesson 1: What is a Caregiver?



The definition of a caregiver is a person who is trained to assume the responsibilities for the physical and emotional needs of another who is incapable of self-care.  According to the 2020 update, the number of family caregivers in the United States increased by 9.5 million between 2015 and 2020. More than one in every five Americans is now a caregiver in their own home.  Due to an aging population, there is an associated increase in demand for caregiving, various types of caregivers include a personal care worker, supportive care worker, personal care aide, home health aide, family member, or loved one.  Duties may include companionship, light housekeeping, personal hygiene, grooming, medication reminders, mail sorting, bill-paying assistance, escorting, and pet care assistance.  There are also four types of caregivers in Home Health Care, Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes, and Adult Daycare Centers.  However, there are many caregivers that are at home with their loved ones on their own with minimal assistance.  Later in the course, there will be resources and tools that may be helpful.

Caregiver Stress and Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver stress or burnout is the emotional and physical strain that is felt by many.  About 75% of caregivers who report feeling strained emotionally, physically, or financially are women.  Research says that caregivers need to be ready to deal with the negative effects of taking care of someone else. Fear, anxiety, stress, and feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty are all linked to not being ready for the caregiver role. The emotional and physical strains of caring for someone can even wear down the strongest person. Then, it’s important to use all the resources and tools you can to help you care for your loved one. When you don’t look after yourself, you won’t be able to look after anyone else.

Risks for Caregiver Stress

People who are caregivers can be at risk for changes in their own health. caregiver stress can be caused by:

  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Financial issues
  • A high amount of hours caregiving without a break
  • No choice but to be a caregiver
  • Living with the person you are caring for
  • No resources or education

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

  • Fatigued
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Irritable and angry
  • Sadness and overwhelmed
  • Frequent headaches, and or bodily pain
  • Abusing substances illegal or prescription
  • Losing interest in social life or activities

Helpful Tips for Caregivers

To help caregivers deal with stress:

  • Accept the help. The helper should be able to choose what he or she wants to do. People you care about might be offered to go on walks with a friend a few times each week. Some people might be willing to do some chores, buy your food, or cook for you.
  • Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. People feel bad sometimes, but know that no one is “perfect” at being a caregiver. Count on yourself to do and make the best decisions you can at all times.
  • Set goals that are a good amount of work. Large tasks can be broken down into small steps that you can do one at a time. Make lists, put things in order, and set up a daily routine. A lot of people start saying no to requests that are too much work.
  • Get in touch. Take the time to learn about caregiving resources in your area. Many communities have classes about the disease your loved one is having, and they can help you find them. People who need help taking care of things like getting around, getting food, or cleaning may be able to get help.
  • Join a group that helps you. A support group can be a source of validation and encouragement, as well as ways to deal with difficult situations. People in support groups can understand what you might be going through, and they can help you. A support group can also be a good place to make long-term friends.
  • Seek help from others. You should make an effort to stay in touch with family and friends who can give you nonjudgmental emotional help. A walk with a friend is a good way to connect each week.
    Set your own health goals. As an example, set goals to get a good night’s sleep, work out every day, eat healthily, and drink a lot of water, among other things.
  • Many caregivers have trouble getting to sleep. People who don’t get enough good sleep for a long time can have health problems. If you can’t get a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor.
  • Check with your doctor.  Tell your doctor that you’re taking care of someone. Don’t be afraid to talk about any problems or symptoms you have.