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Many times an individual’s primary caregiver is a family member. And whether you realize it or not, if you are providing any kind of service or action for another individual who is incapable of doing so on their own, you are a caregiver. Many family members provide care for their loved ones but do not consider themselves caregivers. If you are helping with rides to the doctor, shopping and cooking, paying the bills, grooming and bathing, housekeeping, or managing medications (just to name a few), you are absolutely a caregiver.

Just because you do not receive payment for your services does not make you any less of a care provider. And you are not alone; a recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that nearly one in four households in the United States is involved in providing free care for an older adult. This number totals to about 15,000,000 caregivers looking after their family members and loved ones.

Who are family caregivers?

Spouses: This is the largest group of caregivers. Most are also older, and have their own health problems. It is important that these individuals do not forget to take care of themselves, as well as their loved ones. One should also consider some outside help, such as a nurse aide, to come in your home and help you care for your loved one while you run errands or take a few days off to collect your thoughts.

Daughters: The second largest group of primary caregivers is daughters. Many are married and raising children of their own. Juggling the responsibilities of caring for both your children and your parent places you in the recently evolved “sandwich generation.” There will be many more individuals joining this “sandwich generation” as our population ages.

Daughters-in-law: Many women in this category help take care of an older person with dementia. They are the third largest group of family caregivers.

Sons: Although many are involved in the daily care of a parent with dementia, sons often focus on the financial, legal, and business aspects of caregiving.

Brothers and Sisters: Siblings may assume primary responsibility for care if they live close by. Many of these caregivers also are older and may be coping with their own health problems.

Grandchildren: Older children may become major helpers in caring for a grandparent with dementia. Grandchildren may need extra support if their parents’ attention is heavily focused on the ill grandparent or if the grandparent with dementia lives in the family home.