Caregivers are typically professionals (home health aides, personal care aides, nursing assistants, in home companions, etc.) or family members or friends who provide vital physical, practical, and emotional support to a person who is elderly, disabled or senior. They are increasingly handling tasks previously done by health care professionals. Caregivers may have a range of responsibilities on a daily or as-needed basis, including providing support and encouragement, giving medications, helping control symptoms and side effects, coordinating medical appointments and providing transportation, assisting with nutritional needs, helping with housekeeping, and handling insurance issues.
Caregiving roles can generally be broken down into three categories:
- Live-in caregiver. One person typically assumes the role of the primary (lead) caregiver, often because of emotional, geographic, and logistical reasons. One-quarter of care recipients in the United States live with their caregivers, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.
- Shared responsibility caregiver. Some caregivers share the responsibility with other family members, based on who is able to best perform each of the caregiving tasks. Working productively with family members in times of stress can be challenging because previous family conflicts are more likely to surface or intensify. However, caring for a person with cancer can also bring families closer together. Learn more about sharing caregiving responsibilities with family in a positive way.
- Long-distance caregiver. In some cases, care is managed by a family member or friend who does not live near the person with cancer. A long-distance caregiver assumes the responsibility of coordinating services—often by phone or by email—as well as arranging for local volunteers, friends, and colleagues to assist the person with cancer. Caring for a person with cancer who lives far away can be emotionally exhausting because all of the usual caregiving worries tend to be magnified. It may also cause financial stress. However, there are steps you can take to be an effective caregiver no matter how far away you are. Find out more about long-distance caregiving.
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