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Family Caregiving - Is It A Choice or Your Fate? Who Are They

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Who are these family members who become accidental caregivers? According the a seminal paper produced by the National Center for Caregiving at Family Caregiver Alliance in 2006, a family caregiver can be defined as any relative, partner, friend, or neighbor who has a significant personal relationship with and provides a broad range of assistance for, an older person or an adult with a chronic or disabling condition. These individuals can be primary or secondary and live with or separately from the person receiving care. The family caregiver does not to have to give direct care but can supervise arrange, or give” a broad range of assistance”


Family Caregivers number approximately 44 million, 18 or older provide unpaid assistance and support older people and adults with disabilities in the community. Family members or relatives represent 83%. Most are middle aged and their age’s ranges from 35- 64 years old. Ethnicity vary with 21% for both white and African American, 18% Asian and 18% Hispanic About 1 out of 2 of all caregivers are women. Slightly half of caregivers (48%) are employed outside the home with full time jobs.

The amount of care these family caregivers render varies widely from 8 hours to more than 40 hours. These caregivers give care for an exhaustingly long time and average of 4.3 years.

Spouses who care for their wife or husband at home are, according to Dr. Steven Zarit of the Zarit –Burden scale , between 69 and 73 years old. So they are already somewhat frail themselves to be taking on sometimes complicated major medical tasks.


Carol Levine,  a pioneer in the caregiver assessment movement and a female caregiver herself, points out that the broader view we must take as professionals is that family caregivers are mostly wives, daughters and daughters in law. Most are middle aged. .The majority felt they had no choice but to assume this role. It was not their calling; they felt, but their fate


Cathy Cress holds an MSW in Aging from U.C. Berkeley. Her book Handbook of Geriatric Care Management, Jones and Bartlett, is the bible of geriatric care management and came out in a fourth edition will be out in fall 2015 .Her book Care Managers, Working With the Aging Family, Jones and Bartlett is one of the few major books on the aging family. She just published My Geriatric Care Management Operations Manual, available on her web site Ms. Cress is the founder of GCM Consult, working with small and national groups who want to add or launch GCM businesses. She has taught geriatric care management at the University of Florida, San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley. Cress is a founding partner in CHN Consultants, “Your Partners in Eldercare Development”.