What is Caregiving?

Caregiving refers to the provision of assistance to another person who is ill, disabled, or needs help with daily activities. It often requires attention to the physical, mental, social, and psychological needs and well-being of both the caregivers and the elderly person requiring care.  Caregiving is a “reality” confronting many people in our communities today.  More than 22.4 million persons are informal caregivers – providing unpaid help to older persons who live in the community. One in four Americans is in a caregiving situation.  These caregivers include spouses, adult children (most often the eldest daughter), and other relatives and friends.  Despite changes in family size, geographic mobility, workforce participation of women, and other such factors, family caregivers still provide 80-90% of all personal and medical-related care to elderly relatives. 

As the number of older people increases, there is an increasing demand for both formal and informal provisions of support across the continuum of care. For many people, the challenges of caregiving are often new experiences.  Caregivers and people needing care often lack information regarding these specific challenges as well as available community resources to assist in providing care. A half-century ago, few choices existed for families if an older relative became too frail or ill to live alone.  Today, more support and resources are available to caregivers. These resources include a wealth of printed materials addressing specific physical, mental, social and psychological needs of both caregivers and elderly people requiring care.  Many “internet” resources provide up-to-date and “ cutting-edge” information.  National, state and local organizations provide important services.  However, identifying and accessing available resources is often an added challenge for caregivers and requires time and effort on the part of people in need of this information.  More resources and easy access to resources are needed in order to assist caregivers to be successful in their roles and to be able to provide the best quality of care possible to their loved ones.