Different Types of Caregivers – Do you know which type you are?

 Who is a caregiver?

At some point in our lives, many of us have found ourselves in situations where we, in one way or another, have provided some sort of care to a sick family member. Maybe it’s that one time that your dad was bedridden following an infection or your wife took a bit too long to recover post-pregnancy or even that time you had to fully devote your time to care for a child with special needs or you helped a senior citizen with their activities of daily living.

Anyone who offers care to people who need help taking care of themselves is considered a caregiver. People who may need care include children, the elderly, or patients who have chronic illnesses or are disabled. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers, or members of the clergy.

On this article I will guide us on things you may find yourself struggling with as a result of the caregiving role you are in.

How Do You Become a Caregiver?

In a domestic setting, it is generally expected that if a family member is taken ill, the immediate next of kin automatically steps in to provide care to the sick person. So a spouse will take care of their partner, a parent will take care of their child, or vice versa, and a sibling will take care of their sister or brother. For many family caregivers, the role found them and it is unpaid. Oftentimes family caregivers do not identify themselves by the role they play, rather by the relationship that ties them to the person in their care.

It is, however, important that family caregivers realize that they are serving an extra role in their familial relationship and may require a more deliberate approach to their self-care practices as a result of it. Below is a quick checklist to confirm if you are a family caregiver.

  • You are responsible for taking the family member regularly for health checks and appointments
  • You are in charge of finding, supervising, and financing the domestic help
  • You are responsible for your family member’s general well-being
  • It is your responsibility to sort the family member’s grocery and personal needs
  • You are the intermediary between the larger family and the care receiver.

In the workplace, you become a professional caregiver after getting formal training for the job. Professional Caregivers attend different levels of training depending on the type of role they choose. Not all caregivers can provide medical assistance, and many work in a non-medical role to offer assistance with routine tasks of daily living. These responsibilities may include companionship, homemaking, personal assistance, personal care, and even 24-hour live-in care.

Different countries and states have different training requirements for non-medical caregivers. These requirements range from no formal training or licensing to a minimum number of training hours, required background checks, and licensing for personal care or home services. Non-medical caregivers can find work in institutions of care for example homes for the elderly, children’s homes, or individual family homes.

There are only four kinds of people in the world.

Those who have been caregivers.

Those who are currently caregivers.

Those who will be caregivers, and

those who will need a caregiver.”

Rosalyn Carter

The Cost Of Caregiving

Apart from the financial cost of caring for another person, the caregiving role exacts a mental and emotional cost on the caregiver. Unfortunately for many caregivers the emotional and physical strain that results from extended caregiving is often not addressed.

It’s necessary to give due attention to the caregiver’s wellness. One needs to recognize that they are caregivers and that they need a conscious and deliberate self-care plan.

When a caregiver’s emotional and mental needs are unacknowledged, they are unattended and this increases the likelihood of the caregiver suffering from compassion fatigue.

Being in a caregiver role will definitely have its toll on you hence the importance of planning for your own self-care. Compassion fatigue has a direct influence on the quality of care being offered and if unchecked could lead to negligence or abuse of the person in need of care. Further, compassion fatigue can change a caregiver into a care receiver.

What are a caregiver’s emotional and mental needs?

The financial cost of caregiving is well known, but the emotional and physical strain that results from extended caregiving are often not addressed. Below are some of the needs that caregivers have;

  • Safety from compassion fatigue and burn-out
  • Skills to overcome anxiety, loneliness and isolation
  • Interventions to cope with grief and loss
  • Connection with other caregivers and experts
  • Family mediation and legal aid services.

The personal story of Shahada (not her real name) tells of an instance when the caregiver role caused havoc to her relationships and especially her marriage. To read a genuine and fascinating story about shahada please click on an article I wrote about compassion fatigue. This may have been prevented by having supportive therapy, the establishment of a care support team, or attending a support group of care peers. By plugging into such resources that a caregiver finds a community that keeps them connected to a valuable source of cathartic support and personal development.

Key to note is, every caregiver needs to recognize their mental and emotional needs and that these should be constantly addressed.

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