Caregiving is Essentially Inevitable

Posted on May 19, 2011 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

For most of us, this headline is difficult to comprehend. As we go about our daily lives, we really do not give thought to the reality that if we live long enough, we are going to need help. Or, stated more directly about being a caregiver, if our parents, other relatives, friends, etc. live long enough, they are going to need help from us….and this makes us a “future caregiver.”

So what is a caregiver?  There are a number of definitions, but let me share some examples I have learned while leading this Dementia Initiative:

  • Kathleen Houseweart of Sarasota Memorial Health System Memory Disorder Clinic tells the story of a couple of older ladies who live together.  A neighbor periodically checks on them, changes light bulbs, helps them with chores, etc.  This neighbor is a caregiver, although he doesn’t view himself this way.
  • You mow the lawn of a neighbor who has cancer. You are functioning as a caregiver.
  • You pick up groceries for your parents who are unable to drive. You take them to doctors appointments so you can speak to the physician to understand the diagnosis and how they should take their medicine. You are a caregiver.
  • You move mom or dad into your home because it isn’t safe for them to live alone anymore. You are a caregiver.

Why is it important to understand when you are a caregiver? Mary Ellen Grant of tells me one piece of her mission is to help people self-identify as a caregiver. She says this is important because once they understand that this is the role they are assuming, they can begin to identify the opportunities for support available in their community. This is a good point.

Currently, 75 percent of all caregiving is done by an unpaid professional – in other words by people like you and me. Mom moves in with you. Mom and Dad move next door to be closer. Okay, this makes sense.

So let’s play with some statistics.  If 75 percent of all  caregiving is done by family, friend, etc, (in other words by someone unpaid), and just about everyone will need a caregiver if they live long enough, then guess what?  Each of us has at least a 75 percent chance of becoming a caregiver at some point. (Okay, I took some liberty with the justification for the calculation, but it is credible.)

A 75 percent chance of anything is very significant. Maybe some planning and preparation is in order for all of us?

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.