3 min read

Identifying as a Caregiver

Identifying as a Caregiver

There’s a lot to balance on any given Tuesday. Yes, there’s that quarterly presentation at work, and you’d also promised to help Julia fold origami cranes this evening for her best friend’s bridal shower…but everything really starts with dad’s banging and puttering about in the kitchen. That’s what shakes you awake at 5:15 every morning.

He has trouble reaching the spices in the cupboard over the stove — and has fallen before when using the step stool — so you always hop out of bed and go down to help with breakfast while shaking the sleep out of your eyes. From there, it’s counting out his pills from bottles labeled with text too small for him to read, changing over laundry in the basement to save him a trip down the stairs, getting one more coffee refill, and then you’re out the door. At the end of the driveway, you make sure to unload the mailbox, stuffed with yesterday’s mail including some medical bills you’ll help organize tonight. 

Work is a slog on less than six hours of sleep, but the presentation goes fine and you’re then rushing out the door for “lunch” — that hour of leeway when you can whisk dad off to an appointment. By dinnertime, you’re spent, which means take-out. Thinking about food, you double-check status of the Meals on Wheels deliveries he’ll need this weekend when you’re away at the bridal shower.

Right, the shower…maybe you’ll have time to help Julia tomorrow.

The Gradual Path to Caregiving

Does anything about this scenario feel relatable to you? Could these be flashes of days in your own life balancing work, home, children, and aging parents? You’re not alone. While there can be a lot of stress involved in the balancing act, there are rewards as well. After all, you’re doing this because you care.

Caregiving often sneaks up on us. For many caregivers, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where or when it began. It often starts small — checking the mail for dad, driving mom to her physical, bringing aunt Judy some soup while she’s recovering at home from spinal surgery — but eventually all the errands can add up to more regular and intensive care.

Caregiver Identification and Self-Acknowledgement

What is a caregiver, after all? Because caregiving encompasses such a wide range of possible activities — both emotional and physical — it’s naturally a challenge to see the forest for the trees. Many of these things may strike you as unremarkable, common-sense gestures or duties that any family member would jump to accomplish.

Once you’ve started checking off multiple boxes on the following list, you’ve entered the realm of caregiving:

  • Taking the person to medical appointments or out for errands

  • Making arrangements with hired caregivers or meal services that fill any gaps in support

  • Tracking, paying for, or picking up medications

  • Handling regular household chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry)

  • Assisting with bathroom trips or washing up

  • Remaining bedside during hospital stays

  • Offering emotional support and reassurance  

  • Advocating on the person’s behalf with doctors and other medical staff

  • Arranging care schedules and divvying up tasks among family with a caregiving app

It’s normal to feel hesitant about using the title “caregiver.” In your perspective, perhaps you’re merely doing what any son or daughter or good friend would do under the same circumstances. Accepting the title also means admitting that your friend or family member needs care, which can be difficult to come to terms with. None of us like to imagine losing our independence.

Caregiving can take a physical toll: lost sleep, frequent transportation, bending and lifting as well as trekking up and down stairs — all on behalf of someone you care about. It may also have many emotional impacts: uncertainty when speaking with doctors, the pain of watching someone you love struggle with things they used to do alone, and stress related to the schedule balancing act. Finally, there is a significant financial burden for many caregivers: pharmacy bills, paying for additional care team members, hospital stays, and more.

Support, Resources & Self-Care

Caregivers might be asked to shoulder a lot for their families, but they’re not alone in those experiences. It’s important to remember that many resources are available to help caregivers understand the context of this complex, often challenging role and offer additional support in all areas (physical, emotional, financial). Make sure to take a closer look at support options such as:

Above all, don’t forget self-care. Many caregivers feel some guilt about taking time to care for themselves with all the other responsibilities on their plates. Those feelings show how much caregiving matters, but it’s hard to offer meaningful care without ensuring your own good health. Make a point to take at least a few regular moments to recharge and rejuvenate so that you return strong the next day.

Effective, Empathetic Resources on an App for Caregivers

Success in the role of caregiver requires a combination of internal confidence and external support. “It takes a village,” as they say. Embrace the gift of time you get to spend with the person you’re caring for and the difference those contributions are making in their lives. We invite you to explore Caregiven and learn more about how the best app for caregivers can simplify asking for and receiving help throughout your caregiving journey.