Caring for the Family Caregiver by Kathy Birkett

We are happy to host this guest post from noted eldercare activist, caregiver consultant, and Senior Care Corner blogger Kathy Birkett.

As more of our population ages, the need for caregiving continues to skyrocket.

Family members have been called to take the lead in caring for family members across the country whether they live nearby or at a distance.

Family caregivers are answering the call but need help.

Rise of Family Caregivers

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, in 2015 almost 43.5 million caregivers provided unpaid care.

In 2015, 34.2 million have provided unpaid care to an adult over 50.

15.7 million adult family caregivers take care of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

They estimate that family caregivers spend:

  • 13 days a month on shopping, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, giving medications and food preparation
  • 6 days a month on dressing, grooming, bathing, walking, toileting and feeding
  • 13 hours a month managing healthcare and financial concerns and learning about a disease

Somehow family caregivers need to find strategies that help them manage their time so they can care for themselves.

Caring for the Family Caregiver

Family caregivers are often responsible not just for their senior loved ones, but also their own families, children and grandchildren. Managing two households can be overwhelming.

They are also holding full-time jobs. Many are family caregivers from a distance which makes it all more difficult.

Juggling multiple priorities often means that caring for ourselves as family caregivers is last on the list.

It needs to be first on the list to continue to care!

How can you make yourself first?

Here are some things family caregivers can do to help put themselves at the top of the list and protect their own health.

1. Build your network!

It is important for family caregivers to find and nurture their network. You need a backup system and an extra set of hands to help get everything done. Your senior’s safety is a priority and you can’t do it alone. Find helpers, paid or unpaid, who can help you accomplish tasks. In-home care providers can help accomplish household chores or even personal care duties for your senior. Get your own maid if needed to relieve your personal household chores to free up your time. Have family and friends contribute time during the week for your senior loved one to bring meals, take on appointments such as haircuts, and visit for socialization.

2. Learn about resources!

Connect with the resources available to your senior loved one and you as a caregiver such as local area resources on aging, adult/senior day care, community education or health fairs, and support groups. Community resources can fill gaps for you that can help improve the quality of your senior’s life so they will be less dependent on your time. Resources also include financial help that you can take advantage of such as long-term care insurance benefits your senior may carry that can help pay for in-home care or equipment to make activities of daily living easier and safer. There may also be government benefits for which your senior is entitled. You can check your senior’s eligibility for a variety of government funded benefits at Also, begin learning more about the disease process and treatment options for your senior’s personal conditions so you can plan appropriately and create interventions that will help you both.

3. Get respite care!

Sometimes family caregivers need a break. There are respite programs available for you and your family members. Locate resources such as day programs, overnight respite or in-home care to give you respite. If you want to take a vacation but insure that your senior is safe, there are also respite resources that you can find to allow you to recharge your battery to be a better caregiver.

It may seem that doing some of these tasks takes time you don’t have, but doing some of these things will pay back in time over the long run and make your caregiving responsibilities easier.

It also gives some peace of mind that your senior loved one is properly cared for even when you can’t be there.

Taking care of yourself as a caregiver is a gift to you and your entire family!


Kathy is Senior Care Corner’s expert on the lives and care of senior adults, expertise she has gained through over 30 years working with seniors, families and other caregivers in both her professional and personal lives. Kathy has worked with seniors in their homes as well as in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation and hospital settings. Kathy has a passion for advocacy, education and improving the life of seniors and has shared this passion to her connections in Senior Care Corner and a variety of community-based and online support groups. Kathy is a champion for the caregiver and works to help them be able to meet the needs of those for whom they care while also meeting their own needs. Follow Kathy on Twitter, Facebook, or her website