November 18, 2016

Caregiving: A Burden or Gift?

I received the following press release about caregivers and those who are cared for. I found the results both encouraging and distressing. I' welcome your reaction.

SAN FRANCISCO – October 31, 2016 – As part of November’s National Family Caregivers Month, Honor™ (, the fast-growing tech-powered home care company, surveyed ove3r 1,000 men and women ages 18 and older across the U.S. and found a surprising discrepancy in opinions and perspectives related to caring for aging loved ones.

The 2016 Honor Family Caregiving Survey revealed that age and experience have a strong impact on attitudes. In particular, a larger number of Americans within the consumer sampling who hadn’t yet been exposed to the caregiving process or personally tasked with the related responsibilities viewed caring for an older loved one as a “burden.” 

This same group also expressed far greater concern over the financial impact of providing care. Ironically, those who were already deep in the trenches of a caregiving role viewed the experience as a “gift,” and were less concerned about cost implications, despite the potential toll on their career, financial security and other life responsibilities.

Family caregiver perspective:

● 21% believe caring for an aging loved one is a “gift”
● 6% believe it’s a “burden”

Non-caregiver perspective:

● 8% believe caring for an aging loved one is a “gift”
● 14% believe it’s a “burden”

Those who didn’t see caregiving as a gift or burden accepted the role as merely “a part of life.”

“Regardless of our current life stage and attitudes toward assuming a caregiver role, when that moment comes for us to provide long-term support to an aging parent or grandparent - many of us are simply unprepared,” said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Honor’s Head of Care.

“We asked men and women from all age groups and walks of life if they would be able to provide appropriate care if a loved one suddenly needed it, and nearly 57% said they could not. And, nearly 88% surveyed said it would be up to them -- alone or with a sibling -- to shoulder the responsibility. Collectively, these are sobering statistics given that our senior population will nearly double by the year 2030."

Who Is Providing the Care?

40% of survey respondents serve, or have served, as a caregiver for a parent, grandparent or aging loved one. Among these caregivers:

● 10% are 18-29 years
● 25% are 30-44 years
● 31% are 45-59 years
● 34% are 60+ years
● 59% of family caregivers are women
● 41% of family caregivers are men
● 26% believe their career or professional life has suffered as a result of caring for a loved one
● 58% of these caregivers believe their loved one requires more care than they alone can provide

*Click here for survey graphics.

Among respondents who are not currently family caregivers, six out of 10 believe it’s likely they will play this important role in the future. But only 43% of non-caregivers believe they would be prepared to provide the appropriate care if a loved one suddenly needed assistance. Seventy-five percent would not be able to provide more than 20 hours of care per week.

Added Ellis-Lamkins: “We learned a lot from this consumer study about attitudes toward paid and unpaid care. When asked what the biggest consideration was when choosing care for a loved one, concern for a loved one’s happiness ranked the highest at 57% among experienced caregivers -- well over concerns about the expense of care, which ranked at 7.9%. Also, ensuring trust and safety with the caregiver ranked as the single biggest source of worry, among all concerned, when it comes to bringing a new caregiver into the home.”

To help Americans become more informed about the caregiving process, here are  three essential tips for family caregivers:

1) Create a caregiving plan that involves the recipient and other family members. Ninety-one percent surveyed indicated that their loved one would prefer to stay in their own home, if possible. Volunteers and paid professionals alike should always be appropriately vetted with a background check and provided with feedback after each visit to ensure that their care style and protocols are in sync with family member expectations.

2) Establish and maintain a relationship with your loved one’s medical team and share regular notes and communication to help keep them informed about care and wellness routines that take place in the home.

3) Remember that it is important to care for yourself too - prioritizing your own health will help you manage stress and, ultimately, be a more effective care provider.

To me, the most important finding was the shift in attitude after caregiving of a loved one began. The shift from "burden" to "gift" was encouraging. 

Also quite obvious is the importance of preparing fully before that role becomes reality. I would expect that preparation and getting things in order would help lessen the feeling of care being a negative in one's life.

If you have been, or are a caregiver for another, I would love your feedback. How do the results of the survey match your feelings and experiences? What can you share that would help the rest of us get ready for this situation?

Satisfying Retirement was provided with this information by the company involved. The blog was not compensated for its use, nor can independently verify the results. The material is provided for informational purposes only.


  1. Good morning Bob. Your post speaks to me. Over the last couple of years I have found myself transitioning into role of caregiver. In fact, I just wrote a post about the emotional, psychological transition.

    I did not expect that this is how we would be living our retirement years. It is quite the journey.

    Through a lot of reading and support from other caregivers, I have discovered this: once I accept that caregiving is my life, things will start to flow a little easier. This, as opposed to trying to maintain what was a "normal" life, and working in the caregiving around life as I knew it. Once you have accepted that caregiving is your life, it becomes less of an internal struggle.

    I know that I still grieve the life that we had, and now have lost. It will never be the same. At times I feel angry or resentful that we can't still do the things we used to do. Other than my husband's dementia, we are both very healthy. We looked forward to travel and many other adventures. The reality is a lot of this just is not realistic, given his limitations.

    So I think the point is that by accepting that this is the new reality, it allows you to move forward in a more positive way. Once you let go of the resentment, the anger, the disappointment, it opens up your heart to acceptance and making the best of your life together. It helps when I remember that it is my husband, not me, who is suffering from this terrible, progressive and fatal disease; not me. He is the one who is losing the essence of who he is. I'm still healthy, and grateful every day for that good health and the opportunity to help him through this next stage of our life.

    I'm still a work in progress, but feel that I am moving in the right direction. I feel those "burdened" feelings melting away and instead feel a tenderness, greater love, and acceptance.

    1. Thank you, Carole, for sharing your very personal experience. Accepting the situation as the new normal can't be easy, but is a step that must be taken. Your voice is very powerful.

  2. I can only speak to this based on how we handled things with my father-in-law. He was living alone in Massachusetts and we were in Philadelphia. After his 80th birthday we felt it would be best to get him closer to family. It was a process and there was some 'trickery' involved, I will admit. I wanted to make sure someone we could trust was helping him prepare for the sale of his house so, I found a Realtor who kept us abreast of the process of clearing out his house and selling it. We were able to find him an apartment close by our home in the city and that transitioned into buying a tri-plex and giving him his own apartment. It kept him close enough to know his comings and goings.
    When he began losing his car keys regularly we began questioning his ability to drive. Taking away his car was the first really hard step, but had to be done. It was a pretty quick decline after that. Soon we were making arrangements to move him into 'senior housing' which we all know is the bright side of senior living. He got a new high rise apartment and was pretty independent for about a year.
    After a couple of incidents that clearly displayed his need for assistance we found an aide who stayed with him for 12 hours a day. Within a year he needed 24 hr. aides. Finally he had to be moved to Assisted living and was there for 10 months.
    All things considered I feel we were able to let him live as independently as possible for his last seventeen years.
    I hope when our time comes we can make milk our independence as long as possible and then get run over by a bus because, I really don't want to make my kids watch me die by inches.

    1. Your dad's journey is not much different from my father's after my mom died. He remained in an independent living cottage for two years after her passing, then into assisted living for two years before his death. He was pretty much on his own, by his choice, until he dropped dead one afternoon from a heart attack. He was healthy at lunch and gone right after dinner. Wouldn't we all wish for something so quick.

      The only way we got the car keys from him (at age 87) was to set it up so he was giving the car to one of his granddaughters. He felt good about the car going to a "good home" and basically stopped leaving his residence. I made a trip or two to his place every week for lunch and basic shopping, but he never regretted giving up the car when he did.

  3. My SIL takes her of her mother, who's 100 years old, and I know she thinks of it as a gift. But it depends on the person. I admit that I would find it a burden ... but I also know I'd accept the role as a part of life. On the other side of the equation, I hope a loved one never has to take care of me. But then, we don't always have a choice, do we?

    1. No, we can't really guarantee our ending. We can prepare our affairs and make any transition as easy as we can, but that last part of life is still a roll of the dice. I share your hope that a loved one doesn't have to give up his or her life to care for me, but if need be, the care giving will be there.

  4. I think it might be valuable to make a distinction between caregiving for a partner/spouse versus caregiving for a parent. I have no desire/inclination or will to take care of my parents (originally an adoptee, a second early divorce followed by two quick marriages complicates things a bit). When the time comes for them to receive care they are welcome to locate it elsewhere. It would be not just a burden but a burden I am entirely unwilling to take up. I have actually spoken with each of the people involved and been up front about this, letting them know in advance that I am NOT their fall back plan.

    My partner/spouse on the other hand, though only 34, I assume that there will be some mixture of caregiving traded between us for the next 40 years if we are lucky. I worked as a nursing assistant at a senior home for several years when I was younger so I understand more than most what that will entail and will happily take care of the partner who takes care of me.

    Perhaps this opinion proves I'm a bit of a jerk... :D But I suspect that it's a pretty common response though most are more political about it.