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Family Caregivers: Unconditional Love

Updated on January 29, 2013

Family caregivers may be one spouse caring for the other; a family member caring for another family member; an adult child caring for a parent; or an aging parent caring for an adult disabled child. Whew--that covers a lot of ground.

The National Family Caregivers Association--NFCA-- reports that 65 million Americans are providing regular care for a loved one.

Thankfully, for those who are the recipients of that care, most family caregivers are kind, loyal, devoted individuals. Care recipients don't have to leave their homes for care in a commercial setting such as a long-term care facility or hospice. This single advantage perhaps outweighs all the others.

Having to leave one's home when ill, disabled or elderly represents a terrible loss of freedom and identity. Even though nursing homes and other residential facilities have come a long way in the past few decades in appreciating the individuality of each resident, as the adage goes, "There's no place like home."

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Advantages of Family Caregiving

For the care recipient, being able to remain in familiar surroundings, eating home-cooked meals and being able to have a daily routine that works around individual variances is a dream come true. I don't know many people who would prefer to live in a commercial residential setting if they had a choice.

For the family caregiver, financial constraints may have been a concern about not placing the care recipient in a nursing home, so keeping the care-needing person at home can ease financial concerns. Caring for a loved one in the home also eliminates the worry that the person may be abused or neglected in a long-term care setting.

But family caregivers are unique individuals--even if there are 65 million of them. A successful family caregiver has heart; he or she could not provide this care if this were not true.

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Disadvantages of Family Caregiving

The family caregiver is an unselfish person--often so much so that she neglects her own needs and health. Caregiving is a 24 hour/7 day a week responsibility. Caregiving is In addition to the regular household routine. Groceries must still be bought, bills paid and the laundry done.

If the care recipient is memory-impaired or has a tendency to wander from the house, the caregiver must provide constant supervision.

Some care recipients need to be turned frequently, use the bedside commode, or have difficulty sleeping at night. This can necessitate the caregiver being sleep-deprived.

Help for Family Caregivers

Many family caregivers either don't know who to ask for help or do not want to admit they need any help. If you know someone who is a family caregiver, rest assured that person needs assistance--don't wait for them to ask for it. Offer to run errands for the caregiver, or to sit with the care recipient while the caregiver catches up on his sleep.

There are so many ways you can help a family caregiver--just being there, offering a caring shoulder can provide much needed relief. The caregiver may be spending most of his days and evenings in the home; social outlets are few and far between.

If you're a distant-living relative, you may not be able to provide hands-on assistance, but there are still ways you can help. Stay in contact with the caregiver by phone or email. If finances are a problem for the caregiver, perhaps you could pay a utility bill or car insurance.

Items that may seem small to you from far away may be more appreciated that you can imagine. Audio books or a digital reader might be a welcome gift. Family pictures to keep the caregiver and care recipient in the family loop are appreciated. A gift of stamps for bill paying and correspondence is a nice gesture.

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Raising Awareness of Family Caregivers

Of all the people involved in everyday care and health care, the people most likely to be overlooked are family caregivers. Family caregivers are unselfish by nature and often don't consider their roles to actually be care-giving or underestimate the value of their actions.

November is National Caregivers Month. The National Family Caregivers Association suggests that care givers and care receivers alike make known to their physicians, pharmacists and even health insurance companies who the caregiver(s) is. The goal of this action is to raise the awareness of the health care team of family caregivers and their prevalence as well as to aid in the development of health care plans that include both the care recipient and the care giver's needs.


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