Elder Care: Family Caregiver vs. Professional Caregiver

When your elderly loved one begins to need caregiving, it is often the family that is the first in line to assist. Due to an increasingly aging global population, the role of caregivers has become a critical part of our national and communal healthcare. Eldercare has always been a valuable part of community living, but with the increase of elders and their life expectancy, it is becoming a ‘hot topic’ as to what strategies must be implemented. Culturally, it is expected for the adult children of ailing parents to take care of them as they age, however, our modern era also demands a household with two working adults to maintain a comfortable standard of living. For most, gone are the days where one adult could stay home and manage the household tasks and support the children, family, and elders.

Nowadays, it is more common for all adults to be working which leaves them with less time and energy to support their family, especially vulnerable elders. Taking on the role of the family caregiver can be the first and ‘obvious’ choice, as you feel the call to duty out of love and loyalty. However, being a caregiver can be such a demanding position, that even with all the love in the world, you may still feel burnout. Hiring a professional caregiver may seem like the less obvious route, but professional help can allow for more peace and harmony in your household.

Roles of the Family Caregiver

The role of the family caregiver can be overwhelming for them because they are having to learn ‘on the job’ without the training and a professional support network. This, coupled with family caregivers having their careers and family, can lead to burnout and other stress-related health consequences.

  • Being ‘on call’ for supervision and care – day and night
  • Care Tasks – cooking, cleaning, running errands, and all the tasks that go into running a household.
  • Assisting in delicate matters such as hygiene, eating, and physical help
  • Emotional support for the elder, and at times, also their family and friends
  • Navigating healthcare appointments and documentation
  • Managing finances, insurance, and taxes
  • Coordinating care schedules with family and friends
  • Creating accessible schedules for social time
  • Keeping the elder on a healthy daily routine
  • Morale Cheerleader – which is especially important as elders are more likely to suffer from mental illness and loneliness due to community isolation.
  • Administering medication
  • Supporting physiotherapy exercises

Role of Professional Caregivers

The role of the professional caregiver is often everything a family caregiver performs, with the added benefit of specialized care and professional training.

  • Professional caregivers have the necessary training to provide specialized care, this can be highly beneficial if the elder has dementia, physical impairments, or other disabilities.
  • Personal hygiene such as toileting, washing, and grooming preferences.
  • Bedside care when necessary for the elder – this can be highly beneficial at night when it is dark and there is a higher risk of falling or injury.
  • Maintaining a sanitized and safe environment which is especially critical for elders with compromised immune system.
  • Support the elder holistically – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.

Family caregiving is a necessary part of a support system to keep the elderly safe and loved, however, there are signs to be mindful of when it looks like it is time to bring in the reinforcements – professional caregivers. If you identify any of the following, it may be time to look into paid caregiving to support your family.

  • Mental Health- you are feeling the effects of the ongoing stress and it is manifesting as resentment or physical ailments.
  • Physical Health – you are feeling fatigued and exhausted from long hours and lack of sleep.
  • Emotional Health – you do not have time for yourself or your other relationships with friends and family which is leading to isolation and loneliness.

Being a family caregiver is often an unpaid and unappreciated job. You are constantly ‘on call’, you must navigate the complex health care of a loved one and your freedom is minimized. This job requires time, compassion, and a lot of effort, something that adults with their own children and careers may not have enough of. Hiring a professional caregiver can lighten the burden of stress and ensure that your elderly loved one is receiving the best care possible, without sacrificing other necessary parts of life. You can rest easy knowing they are safe and taken care of, so you can focus on your children, other relationships, career, and mental health.

We also recommend you check these related posts on family caregivers in our Home Care Services blog: