The Many Roles Of An Unpaid Caregiver

Posted on: 28 January 2015


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are more than 34 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. -- most of whom are family members and friends. In many ways, lay caregivers have more responsibilities than paid caregivers. If you are considering being a caregiver, it's likely that you will play multiple roles in your efforts to contribute to your love one's overall well being.

Providing Personal Care and Keeping the Household Running

Sick or elderly individuals often have difficulty performing necessary daily routines without assistance. Although you need to help your loved one remain as independent as possible, as a family caregiver, you may be responsible for:

  • Helping the person with the daily activities of living, including bathing, dressing, undressing, grooming, and using the toilet. When mobility is a problem, you must help the person walk or transfer from bed or a chair.

  • Making sure the person eats, sleeps, and takes the prescribed medications.

  • Preparing meals and performing household chores.

  • Shopping, banking, and running other necessary errands.

  • Paying bills, taking care of insurance issues, and completing required paperwork. Managing your loved one's finances usually involves knowing what services, resources, and financial assistance are available and then providing the requested information and documents.

Providing Health Care Support

A family caregiver is as much a member of the person's health care team as all the medical professionals involved. In providing health care support, you are responsible for:

  • Seeing that prescriptions are filled.

  • Giving medications at the scheduled times.

  • Performing range-of-motion exercises as instructed by the physical therapist if movement and mobility are problems.

  • Reporting any side effects, new symptoms, worsening symptoms, and other changes in the individual's health condition to the doctors or visiting nurses.

  • Taking the person for medical appointments and outpatient therapies or treatments.

Providing Emotional Support

A caregiver's role extends beyond providing personal care and medical support in helping the person live as normal a life as possible. You can give emotional support by:

  • Maintaining a positive attitude. It's important not to take a sick loved one's frustrations and anger personally. The person's agitation and resistance may be the result of chronic pain or cognitive issues and not you. It's best to remain calm in these situations to prevent you and your loved one from experiencing additional stress.

  • Listening when the person talks. Sick individuals often need to share their feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness with someone. Chronic pain and illness can bring on depression, but reaching out to others for support can help.

  • Showing you care even if with a simple gesture like holding the person's hand.

  • Respecting your loved one's need to be alone sometimes.

Providing Social Support

Whether your loved one is sick or disabled, a person's well being includes meeting the need for social interaction and companionship. You can offer social support by:

  • Assisting the person in staying connected to others by communicating through letter-writing, text messaging, emailing, or making telephone calls. Even if a loved one is home bound, it's important for the person to continue to nurture family relationships and close friendships.

  • Keeping your loved one involved in life. Encourage the person to see visitors regularly and attend social gatherings when feeling up to it physically. If the person can't go out, bring other people in. Ask the person's minister to visit, and invite over friends from church groups and social clubs.

If attending to all these needs seem overwhelming, consider hiring a professional service, like Accu-Care Nursing Service Inc, to help even a little with your loved one who is need of assistance.