North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services
Issues facing families
The Division is using this space to share short articles designed to offer suggestions for families involved in caregiving. We will periodically introduce different articles. The articles are based on the work of the North Carolina Eldercare Coalition and the Division of Aging and Adult Services in 1994, with assistance from the Gerontology Program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Feel free to use these articles in newsletters, as part of training sessions or support groups, and in other ways you deem appropriate in assistance to family caregivers. We would appreciate hearing from you about other issues you would like to see addressed, or if you have comments about what we have presented.
Legal issues and decision-making
The majority of older people handle their own affairs throughout their lives. However, illness, chronic and debilitating conditions, or memory loss may make it necessary for another person to handle legal affairs for an older adult. For information on ways individuals and families prepare for such situations see Advance Directives. In certain situations, Guardianship is necessary.
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service provides useful information on planning ahead for elder care that includes making decisions about such matters as health care and health insurance, finances, and death.
There are community services in every county for persons 60 and older who no longer can perform many daily tasks without help. The availability and the sponsoring agencies vary somewhat with each county, but the services may include light housekeeping, help with personal care tasks, or a day care service. For information on services for a particular county, contact one of the following:
Full Circle of Care is a website designed specifically with family caregivers in mind. It provides information on topics such as: legal issues, paying for care, remaining independent, independent housing options,evaluating and assessing needs, assisted living, nursing home care, Alzheimer's Disease & dementia, long-distance caregiving, geriatric evaluation clinics, available services, prescription drug assistance, disease information, home safety, hospice and end of life care, grandparents raising grandkids, support groups, web resources, and accessing personalized service. (Sponsored by Triangle J Area Agency on Aging)
Who are family caregivers?
Nationwide, it is estimated that nearly one out of every four households, or 22.4 million people, provide care to a loved one over the age of 50, with this number expected to increase dramatically by the year 2007. Because many individuals providing care to a loved one don't consider themselves as "caregivers," these estimates fall short.
Caregivers are extremely diverse in the roles they fulfill. Many caregivers live with their loved ones, while others are long-distance caregivers. They are caring for persons with chronic illnesses, acute and life-limiting illnesses, physical as well as mental and cognitive impairments. Caregivers are also diverse in their makeup. While most caregivers continue to be women, we cannot ignore the evidence that this gap is quickly closing with more men, especially spouses, providing care.
Support for family caregivers
A family caregiver makes it possible for another family member who is ill, disabled or frail to get the help needed. These caregivers can provide direct assistance with shopping, bathing, dressing or preparing meals, or they can arrange for and oversee services such as home maintenance, paying bills, in-home aide services or nursing home care. Though it is often rewarding, caregiving can be stressful. Experience shows that successful caregiving involves setting limits, caring for oneself, and involving others in the caregiving tasks.
There are excellent resources to help caregivers with both the emotional and the physical aspects of caregiving. There are numerous books on caregiving in libraries across the state as well as in bookstores. You may also want to consider some of the topics discussed under Issues facing Families. The web offers many helpful sites devoted to caregiver issues and concerns. The website fullcirclecare.org is a great place to begin your exploration of resources (see description above).
Support groups are also helpful in providing needed encouragement and assistance to caregivers. And respite, or a break from the caregiving tasks, is very important. Respite can include time alone or a weekend away, leaving another family member, a neighbor or a friend from church staying with the older adult. It can involve using community services such as an in-home aide, sitter, adult day services, or volunteer providers to care for the dependent person at certain times each week so that the caregiver can relax, have a change of pace, or work or volunteer outside the home. Visit the North Carolina Family Caregiver Support Program information on this website. See Services for some possibilities for respite.
Handbook for Family Caregivers