What Does it Mean to be a Family Caregiver?
Broadly defined, a "family caregiver" is anyone who provides any type of physical and/or emotional care for an ill or disabled loved one. Loved ones in need of care could be suffering from a physical or mental illness, disability, substance misuse, or other condition.
When we look deeper at the question “what does it mean to be a family caregiver?” we find that this role has many facets and is different for each individual. The role of a family caregiver is fluid, constantly changing alongside the needs of the person receiving care. It is also flexible, and must allow the caregiver to find a balance between caregiver responsibilities and their normal life.
The Role of a Family Caregiver
Often the role of a family caregiver is unfamiliar and may lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and worry. “As caregivers move into their role, they may experience role ambiguity, a redefining of their relationships with the care recipient and others, and may perceive stigma and/or experience discrimination as a result of the care recipient's condition” (Gibbons et al., 2014).
The domains of the caregiving role include ongoing support and participation in a variety of different areas. When asking, “what does it mean to be a family caregiver?” you may find that the following list of care types help solidify your understanding of the role.
A family caregiver may participate in just a few, or many, of the following responsibilities:
The role of a family caregiver may be full time or part time, long term or short term, long distance or short distance. Caregivers often work together filling different roles to give support to the person in need of care while maintaining the ability to lead their own lives. It is important for each caregiver to offer services based on their strengths, desires, and proximity to the person in need of care. It is also important that as a caregiver you surround yourself with a support system including other individuals, organizations, programs, resources, etc. so that you have a well rounded care team. Many different types of family caregivers exist and often work together to answer, “what does it mean to be a family caregiver?” for their specific situation.
These team members include:
It is imperative that you develop a care team not just to avoid neglect to the person receiving care, but also to ensure your personal wellbeing as a caregiver and to avoid potential burnout. Pablo Casals, the world-renowned cellist, said, “The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.” When properly structured, caring for a loved one can be deeply fulfilling for both the person receiving care as well as the team of family caregivers.
Whether you are new to the role of a family caregiver, or are looking for additional support, our dedicated team at Sample Supports offers professional assistance as you answer, “what does it mean to be a family caregiver?” for your unique situation. We are here to help you develop integrated care plans with realistic, person-centered expectations so that you can take on this new role with confidence!