What Is Caregiving?


A Caregiver Provides Care

A caregiver is someone who provides different types of care to another. Giving care to another person is not new. It starts the minute a baby is born. A baby is totally dependent on family. As a child grows to be more independent, less care is required. When people age, and if their health declines, they can become less independent and more dependent on family to provide care.

Caregiving is helping someone out, assisting someone, nurturing them. It can range from Saturday grocery shopping for a grandparent to providing total care, such as transporting, bathing, feeding and dressing. The person you take care of doesn’t have to live with you for you to be a caregiver. Assisting someone who does not live with you is also caregiving. So you see, if you help someone you are providing care – you are a caregiver.

Love and Responsibility Help Your Family Care

Generally a caregiver takes on this role out of love and a sense of responsibility. As rewarding as it can be, it can also be extremely stressful.

Caring for an older relative is a family experience. Whether your family is large or small, members of your family may participate in different ways in the care of your older relative.

The caregiving experience can produce negative and confusing feelings. Isolation, anger, love, fear, guilt, confusion and resentment are a few feelings that you may encounter. This "mixed bag" of emotions will only magnify confusing thoughts.

Laugh and Remember Fun Times

Remembering a fun moment or favorite time spent with an older relative can make you feel good inside and relieve stress. Take the time to remember a fun time with your older relative. It could have happened years ago or yesterday.

For example, Jesse is a teenager who wrote about a special time with Great-Gram. He said it made him feel better to remember good times shared with an older relative:

Jesse’s Story

I remember when both of my great-grandparents were in excellent health. We spent a lot of time together. I especially loved fishing and cooking with Great Gram. When we went fishing we would sit on the dock and she would pout the worms on my hook and even take the fish off for me. One time we filled two buckets and brought them up to camp and she helped me clean the fish and cook them for dinner. Other times she would let me cook breakfast. I would flip the pancakes and set the table. Great Gram would praise me for helping her and give me special attention. I was glad that I could help out.

Caregiving is Rewarding and Challenging

Providing care to an older person is very rewarding. Sometimes you learn from or develop a special relationship with the person you are helping. Sometimes caring may become a challenge, especially if the person who needs care becomes increasingly dependent.

Parents May Feel "Sandwiched" In

Parents often become caregivers because they love the person and feel responsible for the older person. Parents care for you at the same time. This can cause them to feel caught in the middle, or "sandwiched." They may want to give you all of the attention you deserve. However, it may seem like they are overlooking your needs because grandma or grandpa requires more care. You may feel left out or that your older relative is more important. Your parents are referred to as the "Sandwich Generation."

Try to recognize and be sensitive to the possibility that your parents may feel "sandwiched" in. Your parents may not intend to spend less time with you. They’re probably "sandwiched" in between responsibilities for you and your older relative.

Get To Know Your Older Relative In Need of Care

Pretend that you are a television reporter. Your job is to learn all you can about your older relative. Interview your older relative or someone who knows them well. Use the following questions to assist you. Then make up your own questions. Be aware that the interview may bring up family secrets. You may want to discuss them with an adult you trust.

  1. What year were you born?
  2. Where were you born?
  3. What were some of your favorite things to do as a teenager?
  4. What were some of your goals in life as a kid?
  5. When did you get married? How many children did you have?
  6. What was my parent like as a teenager?
  7. What are some of your favorite things to do now?
  8. What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you?
  9. Make up your own questions here….

Sources: New York State Office of the Aging, Administration on Aging

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