Did You Know... The Facts About Caregivers?
Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: February 3, 2008
It is estimated that over 50 million Americans are caregivers for an adult family member or loved one. Cancer is just one illness that may require the assistance of a caregiver. Being a caregiver can impact your physical, emotional, and financial health and well being. Some facts about cancer caregivers:
- Approximately 2/3 of caregivers are women. These may be spouses, partners, siblings, children or neighbors, all of whom may already care for others.
- Although men were not traditionally the family caregivers, about 1/3 of people with cancer are cared for by a man. This group may have to take on tasks that they never performed before, such as laundry, shopping, and cooking.
- Coordinating the patient’s care by various specialists can be one of the challenging roles of caregiving.
- 85% of caregivers found the satisfaction of caring for their loved one to outweigh the disadvantages, but 10% found caregiving to be a burden.
- Caregivers report higher levels of insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, poor appetite and depression than their non-caregiving counterparts.
- It is estimated that the value of family caregiving in the US exceeds 300 billion dollars annually for all health conditions.
As a caregiver, you must make time to care for yourself in order to provide good care for your loved one. It is important to recognize your own needs as a caregiver and to ask for help when needed. Accept others’ offers to help and allow some respite time for yourself. Network with other caregivers through support groups or online discussion groups to get ideas and share feelings. Find a non-judgmental person with whom to share your feelings. Keeping feelings of anxiety and frustration to yourself can just lead to feelings of resentment. Don’t allow your own health to fall to the wayside, be sure to make time for your own doctor’s visits, and try to maintain a good diet.
The National Family Caregiver’s Association created these 4 messages for family caregivers to live by:
- Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts. Let your inner voice guide your decision-making for your loved one and yourself. Believing in “You” is the first step toward building confidence, an essential tool in coping with being a family caregiver.
- Protect your health. Taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. If your health is compromised, it’s hard for you to be an effective caregiver. Your life is hard enough. For your own sake, and your loved one’s, take good care.
- Reach out for help. Family caregiving is not a one-person job. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Help comes in various forms, and can range anywhere from others pitching in, to having more information about your loved one’s condition, to sympathetic understanding from your boss.
- Speak up for your rights. In your daily life, speak up and ask for respect and more support for yourself and your loved one. Speak up for the rights of all family caregivers by talking about the need for education, financial support, and better chronic illness care.
Resources for caregivers
National Family Caregiver’s Association
Strength for Caring
Family Caregiving 101