When thinking of caregivers, you may picture a female around 20-30 years old, assisting an elderly person. While this isn’t an inaccurate assumption, it isn’t quite fair. Today, more and more people are taking on the role of ‘caregiver.’ Whether they are caregivers of family members or by professional employment, people of a different race, age and gender are contributing to this role of service. Caregivers are daughters, wives, husbands, sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, partners and friends.
In small doses, caretaking jobs are manageable. But many caregivers are trying to balance the demands of caregiving with the demands of their own lives – which can be extremely challenging and stressful. And different caregivers can face different challenges.
Imagine caring for an individual daily who did not understand or respect the importance of your dress and what it represents to you, why you adhere to specific food restrictions, or that your religious/holiday celebrations are different. A lack of respect and understanding might increase feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression in a role that is already susceptible to these feelings.
"Cultural background exerts a significant influence on caregivers’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. In working with caregivers, practitioners should consider the cultural values, norms and beliefs that shape the meanings caregivers assign to the elder’s illness. Other considerations are who should assume the caregiver role and ways culture influences perceptions of that role.”
Why is Understanding the Diversity of Caregivers Important?
In the past, caregiver research has centered around Caucasian caregivers. Without inclusive research, adequate support cannot be provided to caregivers on an individual level. Nearly 30% of caregivers self-identify as a racial or ethnic minority. As this number grows in the coming decades, more research and resources will be needed to provide quality support to all caregivers – not just some.
“Cultural background exerts a significant influence on caregivers’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. In working with caregivers, practitioners should consider the cultural values, norms and beliefs that shape the meanings caregivers assign to the elder’s illness. Other considerations are who should assume the caregiver role and ways culture influences perceptions of that role.” —Today’s Geriatric Medicine
Because people of different cultures are shaped with different attitudes and expectations, one 20-year-old female may experience the role of a caregiver very differently than other 20-year-old females. Some people may see caregiving as a role that they did not want to be thrown into while others feel deeply committed to providing that service for a family member. This is just one example of how different people are impacted by the role. To be able to provide quality support to caregivers, it is important to understand that caregivers are made of different age groups, ethnicities and religious backgrounds. Some are non-English speaking and some are impoverished. Some are older men who do not like to ask for help. Some are young women who are expected to take on a role they don’t want.
Caregiver.org breaks down some diversity statistics of caregivers in the United States that sheds some light on the reality for caregivers.
- Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months.
- 48% of caregivers are 18-49 years old. 34% of caregivers are 65+ years old
- 62% of caregivers in the United States are White, 13% African-American, 17% Hispanic and 6% Asian American.
- (85%) care for a relative or other loved one.
- 9% of caregivers self-identify as LGBT.
- 57% of caregivers report that they do not have a choice about performing clinical tasks and that this lack of choice is self-imposed.
Ultimately, improving the quality of life of caregivers and the recipients of care requires a deep understanding of how individuals across different cultures, age-groups, and gender are impacted by the role. The role of caregiver can be both demanding and fulfilling and an increased understanding of the people involved leads to great overall care and satisfaction.
This is why SYNERGY HomeCare, for example, goes to great lengths to match the right caregiver to each client. A good caregiver-client fit makes all the difference.