Who Becomes a Caregiver

Who Becomes A Caregiver?

Who Becomes a Caregiver?

Statistics related to the number and types of caregivers in the United States in 2020


     Who do you think becomes a caregiver in the United States? Do children plan with their guidance counselors in school to become caregivers one day? No.  Then, why, and how are there so many caregivers? A recent survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that in 2020, 53.0 million adults in the United States provided care to an adult or child with special needs during the previous twelve months. That number had increased by almost seventeen percent in the past five years. Essentially, one in five American adults is a caregiver now. The study also shows that those caregivers’ health is worse than compared to five years ago. Other interesting data reported includes:

  • 21% provide unpaid care (up from 18% in 2015)
  • 24% care for more than one person (up from 18% in 2015)
  • 26% have difficulty coordinating care (up from 19% in 2015)
  • 26% care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s (up from 22% in 2015)
  • 21% states their health has been negatively affected (up from 17% in 2015)
Caregiver Demographics:
  • Man = 39% Women = 61%
  • 45% states caregiving has a financial impact on their income.
  • 61% work outside the home.
  • 89% provide care for a relative, thought 10% provide care for a friend
  • 40% live with the person receiving care
  • 74% of caregiver age 75 or older take care of someone that age or older
  • 81% of caregivers age 18-49 take care of someone age 50 or older
  • 61% White, 17% Hispanic, 14% Black, 5% Asian, 3% all other
  • 99% assist with instrumental activities of daily living
  • 60% percent help with activities of daily living
  • 58% help with medical/nursing tasks
  • 40% provide high-intensity care
Caregivers report that the ones now needing care have more complex needs making their jobs more challenging and physically demanding
Being a Caregiver Comes with Risks

     Furthermore, the caregivers report that the ones receiving care have greater health needs and require more assistance than they did in 2015. More are also reporting that in addition to physical needs, they have a mental health or memory problem, which causes an additional challenge for them. In other words, the care provided in the home is more challenging and complex than ever before. Caregivers, however, take on the role without adequate training or support. Furthermore, in many cases, the caregiver cannot afford to access services that may be available in their area, due to the complex criteria for access. Plus, in many rural areas, the services are not available for smaller populations, not meeting the minimum requirements.

Many caregivers take on the role without any resources available to them to ask questions.  They are totally on their own if they have a problem.

 Find Out What is Known

Having seen firsthand the truth in the above statistics, I believe that in most cases, a caregiver comes to the role with, at best, only spotty, knowledge, and skill. Most of what they know came from television, health class, personal experience, and family health issues. On the other hand, maybe they have a career that exposes them to healthcare and gives them insight. When I work with someone who asks for my help, I assume they know nothing and ask them to tell me what they know first.  Then I build on their knowledge. I find it’s best not to expect any level of expertise, even if they are a healthcare professional. For example, nurses work in different fields of expertise. Caring for someone in the home is quite different than working in a hospital.  Most hospital rules don’t apply in the home, and healthcare workers must adapt their thinking to a new environment where “sterile” is not required.

Creating a Training Plan
When a new caregiver takes on a role, it's important to find out what they know and develop a training plan with them to help develp a solid foundation of knowledge on which they can base decisions.
  1. Evaluate Health Status

Evaluate the family member’s health status by collecting a thorough health history (including all known illnesses, surgeries, conditions, etc.).  Identify the medications prescribed  (include those taken daily, weekly, and “as needed,” plus herbals, supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter medicines) to include the dose, route, and frequency. What do they usually eat? Are the body organs working correctly, or are there problems?  What is their activity level? Can they read, write, and understand both well, or are they having any difficulty with any of those? How do they prefer to get their information-reading, observation, or doing? What is their mental status? Is their memory good? Any other special needs?

Caregivers need to know the difference between what is normal and what is abnormal in order to determine when there is a problem at home and when to call for help.
2. Compare Health Status to Normal

Look at each body system and identify how well it functions compared to normal.  If there’s a problem, what needs to happen to make it better?  Discuss normal function, lab values, warning signs, critical warning signs, and what they can do when problems start to happen to reduce the impact. Review each medicine, its use, any special precautions, why those precautions are necessary, and how they might interact with other medications or food.   Go over the medical problem list. Identify what is wrong, what needs to improve, whether it affects any other organ and the best way to make improvements and prevent further deterioration.

Before coming home from the hospital, a caregiver needs help to know what type of equipment they might need to purchase to provide proper care for the condition their family member has.

3. Inventory Skills and Equipment Needed

Help the caregiver identify the skills they need for the type of care required.  Inventory the equipment available and determine if additional resources should be purchased to assist them in their tasks. Create your shopping list and identify your alternative options for those that are not affordable or available and a training plan.

4. Implement a Training Program

Implement the training plan based on the priority of need. Determine the procedures needed, why they are necessary, how often, and when. Identify risks and precautions. Review the process, show video if available, demonstrate. Ask for a return demonstration. If possible, be present for the first-time procedure is performed independently if not in person, then virtually.

In order to work with people in healthcare, the caregiver needs to understand the chain of command and feel comfortable knowing who to contact and who does what.

5. Orient to Healthcare System in Use

Talk about the healthcare system used by the family. Discuss the typical medical jargon for the condition, the leadership chain of command, standard practices, and terminology for the healthcare specialists.

6. Review Risk Factors of Immobility

If the person is immobile, information on skincare and immobility is essential, as well as safety instructions for preventing falls.

Managing home, work, and caregiving may seem overwhelming to a new caregiver.

7 .Review Financial Impact of Caregiving

Caregiving is expensive. Anyone new to the role needs information on how to access financial resources, what’s available, how to apply, and if they qualify for assistance.

8. Emergency Preparation

Discuss safety concerns related to the medical condition, equipment used, medications, and interactions between any of them. Talk about what to do in an emergency and develop a plan they can follow.

9. Stress Management

Recommend a mental health plan to reduce stress. Caregivers tend to store up emotions, and they need to share those with someone other than immediate family.  An empathetic listening ear can go a long way in restoring a caregiver’s peace of mind.  

Caregiver feelings of depression, being overwhelmed and lonliness can become too much to handle at times

The Formal Plan

The plan outlined above is very informal but outlines most of the essential components needed to start related to the healthcare needs of the care recipient. The caregiver needs more related to fundamental organization, finances, time management, etc. but that will come later. If you’re looking for a comprehensive plan for training, the one above covers it all.

The Plan in Reality

On the other hand, most of us just deal with each of the above, one bullet at a time as they come up.  We don’t have anyone to sit down with us to help with that training, so we get a little of this and some of that and do the best we can.