Caregiver Identity: Which Family Caregiver Are You?

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Who is a caregiver today?

A caregiver isn't a face in the crowd; a caregiver is the crowd. Him, her, you, me, spouses, adult children, old friends, siblings -- people of all stripes, colors, socioeconomic groups, and skill levels take on the unpaid role of looking after another adult who's ill or frail.

For about one-third of all Americans, a caregiver is the face in the mirror.

Here at, the average user of our caregiving resources is a woman between 50 and 70 who cares for her widowed mother who lives with her, according 2013 research. That's similar to the portrait drawn by other studies. Two-thirds of family caregivers are women and half are employed full-time, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Nothing is truly typical when it comes to caregiving, though. Every caregiver journey is marked by its own landscape of peaks and valleys, twists and turns, scary stretches and, yes, unexpectedly lovely vistas. The disease(s) affecting your loved one influence everything from the intensity and duration of caregiving to the types of help you must provide. Your job and location make a difference. So do what kind of assistance you have and how much emotional support. And of course, your unique relationship with the person before caregiving began colors everything.

Despite all the variables, knowing that others, too, are navigating eldercare journeys can be of great comfort. Thanks to the Internet, it's easier than ever before to find kindred spirits. (This is not your grandmother's isolated caregiving life.) More than two-thirds of those caring for a loved one with dementia on connect over Caring's online Steps & Stages resource, for example.

Whether you're a tech-savvy caregiver, a man or a woman, live near or far, or wherever you are in your journey -- from barely realizing you're in it to adjusting to life afterward -- you've got plenty of company. As former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, has noted, "There are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers."

See also:

The Family Caregiver

The Female Caregiver

The Male Caregiver

The Working Caregiver

The Long Distance Caregiver

The Unknown Caregiver

The Post Caregiver

The Digital Caregiver

The Future Caregiver

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 3 years, said...

Very good article and I think I've had on all those *hats* today...same as every other day. I helped take care of Dad first (Mom was an excellent teacher); then came Mom. Now I'm my husband's caregiver and we just celebrated our 48th anniversary and he was in the hospital with a 2nd subdural hematoma in a year. It's heart-breaking to watch as even tying his shoe has become difficult. I try to make sure we each have a good memory for the day as tomorrow is promised to no one.

over 3 years, said...

I am a caregiver, preparing for the 'end' of my caregiving journey. Dad is in Hospice care, and will not "graduate" out, like he did last time. At one point, I was caring for my husband, mother, and father all at the same time, in two different locations. Four months after moving my parents near me : First my beloved husband passed away, then a year and a half later, Dad was in Hospice care the first time - he "graduated" out "because your Mom needs me", 6 months later, she did need him, she passed away 10 weeks after being given "days to live" with mesenteric cancer. Now, 3 years later, Dad's body has grown too tired to function properly, and will probably be gone by Christmas, IF he makes it to Thanksgiving. It's difficult to imagine my life without parents, husband, and caregiving responsibilities. People ask me what I do in my spare time, and I tell them I don't have any.