What is involved in being a caregiver? 

LTC scenarios may range from care for a few hours per day (usually at home) to care 24/7 either at home or a nursing home or assisted living facility. Unless a spouse or adult child can be the primary caregiver (typically it’s the oldest daughter) paid caregivers will be needed.

Do you know what is involved in being a caregiver? Sounds like an easy and straightforward question to answer, right? Just take care of someone. Well, there is so much more involved.

A recent study pointed out that 73% of people said they would not know what to do if a family member called and said they needed care. There is an urgent and pervasive need for The Conversation.

Ironically, the most important part about talking with your loved ones is LISTENING.

OK, let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road. It has been reported that about one-third of Americans are currently caring for someone with health issues. Caregivers are currently evenly split, with half males and half females. The average age is now 46.

What is the impact of being a caregiver? The caregivers themselves suffer from significant levels of stress, resentment, depression, sleep deprivation and neglect of their own health. Proper nutrition and exercise, on the part of the caregiver, are forgotten in the constant struggle of providing care. With the increasing presence of Alzheimer's disease and the need constant need for care, the physical and emotional burdens are amplified. All of this takes a very serious toll on the caregiver. Burnout is a very real issue. And we haven't even addressed the financial drain due to direct funding and lost work.

If you're thinking that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides a cushion by requiring employers to grant unpaid leave for 12 weeks per year, the annual limit is a "drop in the bucket" when dealing with chronic needs of an elderly, frail or incapacitated person. And notice that's unpaid leave.

If you are considering being a caregiver, be advised that you need to truly understand your role. Often a caregiver does not even identify themselves as a "caregiver". They believe they are simply doing what they're supposed to do to help a family member. A scary aspect of this is that a caregiver has a legal obligation to provide at least a minimal level of care. As was pointed out in a recent court case, if one takes on the role and then neglects the patient, even with the best of intentions, the caregiver may be subject to criminal prosecution. Lesson here: if you can't do it, and do it right and fully, you have to say "no" up front.

Bottom line: being a caregiver is extremely difficult, often thankless, frustrating, physically demanding and emotionally draining. Be aware and be sure before you say yes.