caregiver and an older adult
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Are you a “Family Caregiver”?

by Lori Campbell, LSW, Family Caregiver Support Program Supervisor with SMAA

Who Is a "Family Caregiver"?

Many people out there are caregivers or care partners*, but you may not think of yourself in those terms- you are just “helping out” an older or disabled person. A “family caregiver” does not have to be a related by blood to the person. Any unpaid family member, friend or neighbor who is offering assistance is considered a care partner. Mostoften than not, the care partner does not need to provide hands-on care. Care partners provide assistance in a variety of realms: doing the grocery shopping, helping with finances, providing transportation, managing medications, offering emotional support, helping with personal care, and so on.. Each of these forms of caregiving helps an older or disabled person to remain as independent as possible and live in the setting which they desire.

Financial Value of Caregiving

  • There are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States (Pew Research)
  • The value of services provided by informal (unpaid) caregivers has steadily increased over the last decade, with an estimated economic value of $470 billion in 2013.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the economic value of the care provided by unpaid caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias was $217.7 billion in 2014.
  • Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care. Nearly 1 in 4 caregivers spends 41 hours or more per week providing care. (data reported by the Family Caregiver Alliance)

Without this support, many more older and disabled people would have to move into a congregate setting to receive the care that they need.

The Sandwich Generation of Care Partners

In the past fifteen years, a new term has been coined to describe the generation of people in their 40s to mid-50s who care for both their aging parents or even their grandparents and children - the Sandwich Generation. According to Pew Research Center, nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

Family caregivers provide the backbone of in-home care in our society. Especially during the pandemic, many care partners have been squeezed between working from home, perhaps supervising children’s schooling, and continuing to provide assistance to an older or disabled person. We salute all family care partners during National Family Caregiver Awareness Month, and all year round!

If you are a caregiver and are feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility please consider contacting the Southern Maine Agency on Aging (SMAA) at 207- 396-6541 or email at to connect with a Family Caregiver Support Specialist. In addition to Options Counseling, SMAA also offers respite funding to eligible individuals, Adult Day Services at the Sam L. Cohen Center, Savvy Caregiver classes and support groups.

*An article from Stanford University explains the difference between a care partner and a caregiver:

“The difference is that of a one- versus a two-way street:

A caregiver is someone who provides care for someone who is unable to care for themselves. The term implies a one-way relationship between two people–one gives and the other receives. It suggests that a passive role is taken by the recipient of care.

However, caring is often a two-way street, and this balance of care is more fully captured by the term, care partner. A partnership is characterized by mutual cooperation and joint responsibilities. There are opportunities to give as well as receive by both parties in a care partnership. The term is more inclusive and egalitarian.”

In addition to the two-way relationship between a caregiver and the person they care, the term care partner also allows to include other paid and unpaid caregivers as well as support of organizations such as SMAA that offer trainings, support groups, and resources for both caregivers and the older adults or adults with disabilities they care for.