Minneapolis VA Health Care System
The VA and Caregivers
The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes that caregivers provide a valuable service for Veterans and are "partners" with the VA in providing excellent healthcare. Caregivers provide the support and care needed to allow Veterans to remain in their own home. Caregivers also play an important role in supporting Veterans who are hospitalized or living outside their home.
The VA believes that caring and supporting caregivers improves the lives of Veterans. Learn more about these Minneapolis VA Medical Center resources for caregivers:
Minneapolis Medical Center Visitor Information
Fisher House™ Program
Medical Foster Home Program
What is a Caregiver?
According to the National Family Caregiver Association*, caregiving is the act of assisting someone who is chronically ill or disabled and who is no longer able to care for him or herself. The National Alliance for Caregiving* and American Association of Retired Persons* consider caregiving to include help with personal needs or household chores, as well as managing a person's finances, arranging for outside services or visiting regularly to see how the individual is doing.
While caregivers can be paid professionals, the term "caregiver" typically refers to the family members or friends who provide care to their loved one. It makes sense then to define a caregiver as anyone who provides unpaid help or care, or arranges for help and care, for a relative or friend because they have an illness or disability that leave them unable to do things for themselves or because they are getting older. Caregivers do not need to live with the person to be considered a caregiver.
Who is a Caregiver?
According to the December 2009 survey completed by National Alliance for Caregiving and American Association of Retired Persons, nearly one-fourth of all adults (54 million) in the United States provide unpaid care to an adult family member or friend. Who are these caregivers? This survey found some interesting things about caregivers:
- Over two-thirds of caregivers are women
- 45% of caregivers are age 18-49, 40% of caregivers are age 50-64
- More than half of all caregivers are married
- Approximately three-fourths of caregivers have worked while caregiving
- Over 40% of caregivers say they did not have a choice in taking on the caregiver role
- A majority of caregivers assist their loved one with at least one activity of daily living (usually helping the person in and out or bed and chairs)
- Over 50% of caregivers experience medium to high levels of stress as a result of the demands of their role as a caregiver
- One-quarter of caregivers say they have a difficult time coordinating care with health care professionals or service providers.
Are you a caregiver?
Most caregivers are family members or friends of the person receiving care. You may already consider yourself a caregiver. However, many people, who already fill the role of caregiver, do not recognize themselves as caregivers. Often family members think they are only doing what is expected of them as a spouse, child, parent, or other family member. Friends may think they are simply "helping out." Some people may not consider themselves a caregiver because they do not live with the person they are assisting. Recognizing that you are a caregiver is important. You may not realize that you need help or that help is available.
Answer the following questions to determine if you should be thinking of yourself as a caregiver.
- Do you feel responsible for providing support to a loved one?
- Do you help out a loved one around the home, with cooking or cleaning, even if only on an occasional basis?
- Do you take your loved one to run errands and/or escort them to medical appointments?
- Would your loved one call you in an emergency and expect your prompt assistance?
- Do you provide support or assistance to a loved one living in a long-term care, assisted living, or residential facility?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you are a caregiver. Caregivers may have additional demands in their life, such as other family responsibilities and a job. All of this can put caregivers at risk of stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, financial concerns, and neglect of their own personal health issues. At some point while you are providing care to a loved one, you may need assistance. By asking for help, you can help find balance in your life and personal satisfaction with your role as a caregiver.
* Links will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs Website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.