How to Tell if You're a Caregiver

April 2011

Many people caring for a friend or loved one don’t call themselves "caregivers," even though they are. Are you a caregiver?

Caregiver . care-giv-er (kâr'gĭv'ər) n. Someone who:

  • Cares for, or supports a partner, neighbor, or family member
  • Provides long distance support to a friend of family member
  • Visits with, or runs errands, buys groceries or cleans house for a neighbor
  • Helps a loved one with bathing, feeding or dressing
  • Tends to a loved one’s finances
  • Arranges a loved one’s medical care
  • Spends any amount of time acting on someone’s behalf to ensure his or her physical, mental and emotional well-being
If you’re taking care of a loved one, family member or friend who is ill or incapacitated, you probably don’t think of yourself as a "caregiver"—you’re simply doing the right thing. Maybe you only look in on a friend once a week, or once in a while. Or maybe when you hear the term "caregiver," you think not of yourself, but of paid home health aides or other in-home care.

The reality is that almost 80 percent of all caregiving in the United States is provided by friends and family. Caregiving takes many forms, and it happens 7 days a week or one day a month, or any other frequency. Often, more than one caregiver is tending to a loved one. You might be a primary caregiver who coordinates medical care, or you could be a secondary caregiver who visits once a month to give the primary caregiver some time off.

Whatever your role, you are a caregiver and your support helps your loved one age in his or her home and community. It is important for all caregivers to understand the importance of the care they give, as well as the strain it can have on their daily lives. Caregiver stress, isolation and burn-out can lead to problems for both caregivers and care recipients.

Take another look at the definition of a caregiver at the top of this page. Does any of that apply to you? Then you’re a caregiver.

So You’re a Caregiver: Now What?

You’ve taken on a task that can sometimes seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are services to help caregivers and this website will provide you with essential information, services to access and places to seek support. Be sure to check out the articles listed below to get started.