National Family Caregivers (NFC) Month in November is designated as a time to thank and support family caregivers, to draw attention to the many challenges that family caregivers face, and to raise awareness about programs that support family caregivers.
For more information about NFC Month and ways that organizations can celebrate NFC, visit www.thefamilycaregiver.org
Family caregivers provide long-term care services for sick, frail, and/or disabled persons in the United States. Family caregivers are spouses, adult children, and other relatives and friends—people who may not think of themselves as caregivers. These “informal” (and unpaid) caregivers provide basic care to their loved ones who have chronic medical conditions such as dementia, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses. Caregivers typically provide help with activities of daily living (ADL) such as bathing, dressing, toileting, eating/feeding, walking, symptom management, and lifting/transferring. They may also help with household chores such as cleaning, shopping, and meal preparation; giving medications and medical treatments; paying bills; and providing emotional support.
Health Problems of Caregivers
Caregiving is both physically and emotionally demanding. In fact, caregivers are often described as “hidden patients.” This is because caregivers tend to their loved ones’ health and well-being, but don’t always take care of their own health.
Research has shown that family caregivers are at risk for a number of health problems. The Administration on Aging (AoA) provides more information on the impact of caregiving on caregivers in their FAQ Concerning Family Caregivers (http://www.aoa.gov/prof/aoaprog/caregiver/careprof/TownHall/Question and Answer (Final Version).doc) and their fact sheet on caregivers (http://www.aoa.gov/prof/aoaprog/caregiver/careprof/TownHall/One-page factsheet (final version).doc).
Caregiving can also be rewarding. Many caregivers find meaning and satisfaction in caring for a loved one. Womenshealth.gov provides some personal testimonials about the positive aspects of caregiving (http://www.4women.gov/editor/2007/11/). A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that over two-thirds of informal caregivers found caregiving personally rewarding, despite the real costs emotionally, physically, and financially (http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/167/1/40).
Other sources on caregiver health risks
Public health professionals can encourage caregivers to take care of themselves, so they will be able to help their loved ones. Caregivers can be referred to services such as the Eldercare Locator (at www.eldercare.gov, or 1–800–677–1116). The Eldercare Locator connects older persons and caregivers with State and local agencies to provide home and community-based services.
These services might include meals, home care, transportation, respite care, financial help, or caregiver training. Federal and State programs may help to pay for some services such as respite care.
The Rosalynn Carter Institute (RCI) on Caregiving has been working to identify evidence-based caregiver interventions—those that have a documented record of positive outcomes for caregivers. RCI’s Evidenced-Based Caregiver Intervention Resource Center provides information on interventions that have been tested in randomized controlled trials (RCT) and have been strongly linked to desirable outcomes. Over 60 studies are currently listed on the Center’s Web site, which will continue to be updated:
Factors for Success
Translating research into practice is often difficult. An intervention or program may not be successful for many reasons, including poor implementation or followup, and inadequate staff or caregiver training. RCI lists on their Web site some factors that can make interventions successful—http://www.rosalynncarter.org/effective2/.
The Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000 led to the creation of the National Family Caregivers Support Program (NFCSP). This vital program was established by AoA (of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Through NFCSP, States partner with local agencies on aging, faith- and community-based providers, and tribes.
NFSCP’s Web site has more information on services and eligibility— http://www.aoa.gov/prof/aoaprog/caregiver/caregiver.asp.
What Services Does NFCSP Provide?
NFCSP provides funding for States to work in partnership with local agencies on aging, faith- and community-based service providers, and tribes to offer five basic services for family caregivers. These include
The mission of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) is to provide leadership for disease prevention and health promotion among Americans by stimulating and coordinating prevention activities. Prevention Report is a service of ODPHP. This information is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.
Last updated: November 30, 2007