It may be called a personal care aide or by some other name, but it’s all about helping someone else do whatever tasks are needed to make life work.
So what does this tell us? More people are in need of help. Folks are living longer, medical procedures and processes are improving, and issues that may have resulted in long-term hospitalization now may be dealt with either at home or in some other less restrictive (and less expensive) setting.
Sure, help may be needed, but not necessarily ongoing professional medical providers 24/7.
So how would you define the term “caregiver”? The literalists out there might say “Someone giving care.” Yes, thank you. True, but not very helpful.
Depending on your experience and/or exposure to such things, you may think in terms of everything from volunteers to certified and credentialed nursing assistants, to…? What does “care giving” really mean?
· Helping care for a spouse? Yes
· Grandparents taking care of grandkids? Yes
· Any other family member taking care of another family member? Yes
· Paid professionals assisting someone to get through the day? Yes
In some of these scenarios, such as the paid professionals, the identity of caregiver is who they are and what they do — no problem there. Whether working in a facility or working in a client’s home, the training, experience and system all reinforce the role.
In other instances, however, (like among family), the idea of being identified as a caregiver is secondary to being Grandpa, Grandma, Bob, Mary or Dave. It’s just what they do, and I’d bet that if you ask these folks if there are any caregivers in the home, they’d say no. And yet there they are, day after day, providing help.
A caregiver would not be a caregiver if they didn’t care, both in the heart and in action.
Is it important to have the title? Again, depends. As we started this column, the references to caregivers spoke to the occupation, so in that arena, yes it is important.
In the family scenario? Maybe not so much the title as the action takes precedence. Care giving becomes less a noun than a verb.
Now (hopefully) some encouragement. If you are a professional/certified caregiver, remember that you, too, need to take care of yourself. Talk to your co-workers, supervisor, organization, etc, about what supports may be available to you in order to remain healthy and active. Are there support groups or employee assistance plans if you feel like burnout may be heading your way? Or if you feel like you need to just get a boost? Check into it —preferably before you actually need it.
The (largely) unidentified family caregivers? Again, there are support groups available, plus online supports (see Family Care giving Alliance at http://caregiver.org, or simply surf for family caregivers). You can also check out the family caregiver section on our site at www.o3a.org. Lots of information out there.
Another way is to contact our Family Caregiver Support Program directly, whose sole purpose is to support the caregiver and help them to continue to provide care. More information and/or details? Contact Eric Nessa at 866-582-1485, or NessaEM@dshs.wa.gov and have a chat.
There’s no need to go through family care giving alone simply because you’re not a “professional” caregiver. Give him a call.
And to all the caregivers out there in whatever capacity: Thank you for caring.
Information & Assistance: Raymond: 942-2177, 888-571-6557, www.o3a.org.