The Many Faces of Caregiving

Since a caregiver is defined as a person who provides direct care, it made me think about the vastness of caregiving. Our societal reality differs greatly from professional definitions. It is important all caregivers know just how important everything they do is, regardless of the size or volume of the task. Who is a caregiver, and how would they like to be addressed? I speak with people every day that are caring for others, but they don’t necessarily consider themselves caregivers. 

I don’t list all these caregiver names/roles to minimize the role of a caregiver – I list them to highlight that as a community we care for one another on a regular basis. And yet, getting someone to identify as a caregiver can be one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome. Think about it…we partner with people to provide care, we provide care for family and friends, and we engage the community to assist those in need. We provide emotional and physical care in addition to medical and non-medical care. The point is, we help others with tasks they cannot do independently. This is a huge endeavor we take on as individuals and as community, but most of us don’t give it a second thought. We are helping those we know and care about with everything from grocery shopping, rides to appointments, visiting, help with making decisions, to assistance with paying bills and the provision of demanding physical care.

Caregiving is no longer for just the elderly, it is a monumental task which is regularly undertaken and embraced across the life span. Caregiving is truly the hardest yet most rewarding job you will take on in your lifetime, and as a society we need to be aware of the importance of a caregiver, or whatever you choose to call this very important role you play in someone’s life.

Caregivers can be a:

• Care Partner • Spouse • Care Provider • Physician 
• Caretaker • Friend • Social Worker • Nurse
• Parent  • Colleague • Partner • Neighbor
• Grandchild • Volunteer • Guardian • Fellow Parishioner
• Adult Child • Foster Parent • Family Member

It is a fact that the aging population is growing by leaps and bounds and the need for more paid and unpaid assistance will grow as well. Howard County is fortunate to have many supports in place within the Office on Aging and Independence (OAI) to help our older adults age well, and age in place. 

Through OAI and the Department of Community Resources and Services (DCRS) we want to help Howard County’s caregivers across the life span, such as grandparents raising grandchildren, parents raising a child with a disability, along with a growing number of adult children looking after parents or grandparents, and let’s not forget friends helping friends. Truly, caregiving is not limited to older adults, and neither are the resources. Through our various offices, including OAI, Office of Children and Families, Office of Veterans and Military Families, along with many other county agencies and non-profit organizations, we are able to provide an abundance of resources to caregivers. We have recently moved our main office, and most community resources can now be accessed together at the new location: 9820 and 9830 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia, MD 21046.

The goal is for no one to go it alone. Our hope is for all caregivers in Howard County to feel supported with access to quality resources, and the ability to reach the appropriate agency to assist with their specific needs. 

Preparation is the key to success for all, and most importantly, a healthy caregiver. When you are aware of your role and how significant it is, you are better able to take care of yourself and your loved one. Support can come in many forms, whether it is emotional support by way of professionals to walk you through a difficult time, or programs to educate you about a physical or mental illness, or a link for resources to assist you, the Caregiver Support Program and DCRS is here for you. Contact Kathy Wehr at 410-313-5955, or kwehr@howardcountymd.gov.

Provided by the Howard County Office on Aging and Independence Caregiver Support Program

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