The Caregiver Support System

A caregiver that chooses to dedicate their time to helping someone they love no matter what they get in return is what true love looks like. A pure example of this bond can be found between P&O Care’s very own patient, Connie Barnes, and her husband, Ronnie. Connie has struggled with knee pain since 1993, and the constant pain she feels prevents her from performing daily tasks on her own. She depends on Ronnie to do what she does not have the strength or energy to do around the house. Ronnie accompanies her to every doctor’s appointment, grocery shops, cleans the house, and cooks special meals to help Connie with her dietary restrictions. When Ronnie is otherwise unable to perform any task, their son will help care for Connie. With no other family in the area to help, Connie relies on the support from her husband and son to keep her health on track.

Connie and Ronnie have been together for 46 wonderful years, and their relationship has only grown stronger since Ronnie and their son stepped up to be Connie’s caregivers. P&O Care works closely with Connie’s care team and continues helping her with pain management by provided her with a functional KAFO brace. Read more about Connie and her experience with P&O Care here.

Being a family caregiver is more than a job. The relationship between the caregiver and the one receiving care is one of companionship. It takes commitment and patience to be available to help someone in need 24/7. Caregivers are more than the care they provide.

What Does it Mean to be a Family Caregiver?

National Family Caregiver Month highlights and raises awareness for those who spend their time caring for family members who struggle with chronic pain or illness who could not otherwise take care of themselves. In 2018, it was estimated that 34 million Americans are designated family caregivers for someone in their lives. These individuals work tirelessly for hours, have no formal caretaker training, and perform duties and tasks that the individuals being cared for cannot do themselves.

Taking the Role of a Family Caregiver

Caregivers can be spouses, partners, adult children, parents, other relatives, friends, and neighbors. Being a caregiver is typically not the only role being played. The caregiver may be employed, working full or part-time, raising a family, or have other family commitments. Finding balance between caregiving and personal time requires a great deal of patience. A caregiver might need to navigate social service systems, call doctors while at work, advocate for the care receiver, and take care of their day-to-day needs, while trying to do all of those same things for themselves or their family.

Caregivers are rarely trained to do the broad range of tasks they perform for the individual receiving care. If caring for an individual requires physical strength, there may be a benefit from speaking with a physical therapist on how to correctly transfer someone from bed to chair, or wheelchair to car. There may also be barriers if communication skills are absent or unavailable between the one receiving care and their caregiver.

Some of the more common tasks that caregivers do are:

  • Buy groceries
  • Household chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry)
  • Providing transportation
  • Helping the care receiver with dressing, taking a shower, taking medicine
  • Helping with mobility (around the house or to and from a doctor’s appointment)
  • Performing medical interventions
  • Arranging medical appointments, accompanying them to appointments, monitoring medications
  • Talking with their care team

Caregiving starts with identifying the needs of the person you are caring for. Here are some questions you might ask yourself and your loved one:

  • What type of help does my loved one need right now to live as independently as possible?
  • Who in the family will take charge of caregiving and/or make arrangements for care?
  • What types of assistance are expected in the future?
  • How much money is available to pay for outside resources?
  • Will insurance cover any services?
  • Will my job affect the amount of care I can provide?
  • How many or what days and times do I most need help?
  • What kind of assistance can I provide? What about friends and family members?
  • Will we be comfortable having a stranger in our home to help us?
  • Do we want out-of-home/community care? What kind? How often? How long?

Resources for Caregivers

Caregiver Action Network

Eldercare Locators

National Alliance for Caregiving

National Caregivers Library

National Council on Independent Living Caregiver Resources

Well Spouse Foundation 

Information gathered and provided by The Amputee Coalition, National Foundation for Cancer Research and Family Caregiver Alliance.