The caregiving experience is one many of us Boomers are or will be going through as we look after our aging parents. Over the next several days, I will be sharing a multi-part series on my involvement as a primary caregiver for my two parents. But before I do that, I thought it appropriate to give you a brief overview of the various definitions and requirements related to caregiving. Much of this information comes to you from Wikipedia, which has done an excellent job of providing relevant insights.
With an increasingly aging population in all developed societies, the role of caregiver has been increasingly recognized as an important one, both functionally and economically. Many organizations that provide support for persons with disabilities and other afflictions have developed various forms of support and caring. A person may need care due to loss of health, loss of memory, the onset of illness, an incident (or risk) of falling, anxiety or depression, grief, or a disabling condition. Such is the dilemma we as Baby Boomers face as our parents age and fall into one or more of those categories where they need our support.
With that as a basic backdrop, there are three different types of caregivers:
- An informal caregiver is an unpaid and without formal training member of a person’s family or social network who helps with daily living activities, addressing such issues as old age, certain disabilities, certain diseases, or a mental disorder. Typical duties of a caregiver might include taking care of someone who has a chronic illness, managing medications, talking to doctors and nurses on someone’s behalf, helping to bathe, dress, or look after basic hygiene needs, taking care of household chores, preparing meals, or processing formal documentation for someone who cannot do these things alone.
- A primary caregiver is the person who takes primary responsibility for someone who cannot fully care for him or herself. The primary caregiver may be a family member, a trained professional, or another individual with personal ties.
- A professional caregiver is the paid version of a caregiver, a Personal Care Assistant or contracted Personal Care Attendant (PCA). Most agencies require caregiver certification as a condition for employment. Most US states have caregiver resource centers that can assist in locating a reputable training class. In many cases, training is available at local colleges, vocational schools, organizations such as the American Red Cross, and at local and national caregiver organizations.
The fundamental part of giving care is being a good communicator with the person getting the care. This actually takes on the form of both verbal and physical communication and interaction: remaining in contact with their primary or specialty physicians; maintaining good hygiene; keeping up a clean living environment; organizing the person’s agenda such as meeting medical appointments; compliance with diet and eating assistance; keeping health care products ready and available; managing medications; monitoring health and vital signs; monitoring the person’s mental condition and noting any unusual changes in behavior and cognitive skills; etc. The list is certainly not limited to these points.
With this as a prelude, stay tuned for a multi-part series on my personal caregiving experience. I think you will find it timely, poignant, and most of all applicable. It’s a wild ride, one that I wasn’t prepared for, but I am now with years of experience and I want to share it with you, because you are either going through the same journey or soon will be.
I want to help prepare you and give you as much guidance as possible. You are not alone on this trek, nor should you allow yourself to be. I am your BoomerGal, and I’m a big believer in the following quote:
“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it”