What is a caregiver? A caregiver can be a relative, partner, friend or neighbor who provides assistance for a person with a chronic or disabling condition. There are approximately 24,277 caregivers in Jackson County and 9,887 in Josephine County. The average caregiver is a woman, with an average age of 46. She typically has children still at home, is married and working outside the home, with an average income is $35,000 per year.

What is a caregiver? A caregiver can be a relative, partner, friend or neighbor who provides assistance for a person with a chronic or disabling condition. There are approximately 24,277 caregivers in Jackson County and 9,887 in Josephine County. The average caregiver is a woman, with an average age of 46. She typically has children still at home, is married and working outside the home, with an average income is $35,000 per year.

Q: Is education about the patient's medical situation necessary?

A: Education will provide an understanding of the particular disease process and what to expect from the patient. Also, because caregivers often take the role of hands-on health-care provider, they need to learn how to assist them. Q: Will more people be providing care for their parents as the population ages?

A: Oregon's population of elderly is estimated to increase 65.9 percent by the year 2025 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). With the elderly living longer and desiring to remain living independently the need for caregivers will increase as well.

Q: What should people do to prepare for the aging of their parents?

A: Start by gathering copies of the person's necessary documents: Social Security card, health insurance information, life insurance policies, financial information, mortgage documents. Then find out who your parents wish to serve as their health-care proxy. Have them fill out an Advance Directive (oregonhealthdecisions.org). As they grow older, monitor their daily activities to determine if they need assistance. Finally, if your parents are of sound mind, involve them in all decisions regarding their living arrangements and health care. For help in managing these issues and your parents' lives, search out a geriatric care manager.

Q: What changes should caregivers expect regarding family dynamics when providing full-time care in their home?

A: Be prepared for big changes, since the care recipient will most often be the first priority throughout the day. This means fewer family vacations and an additional drain on financial resources due to increased care costs and the very real chance that the primary caregiver will no longer be able to work outside the home. Finally, caregiving is psychologically stressful on all members of the family.

Q: How should caregivers take care of themselves?

A: First and foremost, ask for help and find some respite care, adult day care or in-home health agency services to allow yourself some time off. Every day, try to take time for something enjoyable — a walk, uninterrupted reading, shopping, going to a movie or concert. Also consider joining a caregiver support group. Monitor your own physical and mental health, seeking advice and treatment accordingly.

Q: What should families keep in mind when considering a full-time caregiving situation?

A: First of all, consider the impact full-time caregiving will have on every member of the family. At-home children and spouses or partners may have to share time with the cared-for and help the caregiver. Because full-time caregiving is very demanding and can be a commitment that may last for years, families should seriously consider whether adult foster care may be a better option.

Information compiled by Sally Bowman, Ph.D., Extension Family Development Specialist, Oregon State University and Rochelle Bullock, second-year graduate student earning a Masters in Applied Psychology with an emphasis in Geriatrics and Human Services at Southern Oregon University.