Family Caregivers: the ‘Invisible Workforce’

how to avoid the pitfalls of caregiving

A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health calls family and unpaid caregivers the “invisible workforce” of the health care system. Released in the Feb. 15 JAMA Internal Medicine,  the study examined how caregivers’ involvement in older adults’ health care activities relates to caregiving responsibilities, supportive services use, and caregiving-related effects.

Aging Life Care Professionals™ Help You Avoid the Pitfalls of Caregiving

by Jullie Gray, MSW, LICSW, CMC — Aging Life Care Association™ Member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy


Unpaid family and friends who assist older people with disabilities by coordinating doctor appointments and managing medications are significantly more likely to experience emotional, physical, and financial difficulties than caregivers who don’t provide this type of support, the research finds.

Such caregivers are also three times more likely to be less productive at work due to distraction and/or fatigue, a phenomenon called “presenteeism,” as well as outright absenteeism. Researchers say this shows that there is a significant – and often unrecognized – cost borne by employers.

Aging Life Care Professionals have put together several resources for family caregivers to help avoid these pitfalls of caregiving identified in this study.

Caregiving is difficult and exhausting work. If you don’t take time to set limits on what you can do and when, and create balance in your life, you may begin to suffer from a condition called “burnout.” When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, some people cope better than others. But everyone’s flame is at risk for flickering out if they aren’t careful.

If you feel overwhelmed and unable to take another step forward you may be experiencing burnout. Take this quiz to find out if your flame is about to fizzle.

Are You Burned Out From Caregiving?
True, this describes my situation most of the time. False, this isn’t the case in my situation.
1. I feel emotionally drained because of my caregiving duties.
2. I’ve developed a negative attitude.
3. I feel stressed out more often than not.
4. I have more medical problems as a result of being a caregiver.
5. I feel more depressed and/or anxious than before I became a caregiver.
6. I’m not successful as a caregiver.
7. I have trouble sleeping at night.
8. I feel all alone—no one helps me.
9. I have trouble making time for myself and taking a break.
10. I feel trapped in my caregiver role.
11. I feel hopeless and as if there is no help for my situation.
12. I’ve become angry & frustrated and sometimes take my anger & frustration out on the person I care for.

The more items you answered “TRUE” to in the Burnout Quiz, the higher the likelihood that you are experiencing burnout! Even if you responded “TRUE” to just one question, you will benefit from additional help in your care-taking responsibilities.

To learn more about caregiver burnout and how to find the help you need to manage the stress, download this white paper from the Aging Life Care Association™.

More resources from the Aging Life Care Association

Six Hidden Costs to Caring for An Aging Parent: Caregiving for an aging loved one isn’t all doom and gloom. The rewards of caregiving are real, but so are the hidden costs.

 Is it OK to Lie to Your Aging Parent? From our earliest days we are taught never to lie, especially never to our mother or father. However, a survey of Aging Life Care™ experts reveals that telling a “fiblet” can actually be therapeutic when telling painful truths to aging parents with a cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Six Steps to Living Well While Caring for Aging Parents by Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC : A reminder may be in order that equilibrium is the key to living well as we divide our time among the needs of our parents, children, partners, jobs, and ourselves. The pull to care, or over care, often knocks that balance of its feet. Download a copy of this eBook and discover six steps that will help bring balance back to your life as a caregiver.

Getting the Care You Need When You Live at Home by Phyllis Mensh Brostoff, CISW, CMC: This e-book covers some of the aspects of getting care when the time comes, how to get that help, and how your family can arrange for help when you might not be able to make some decisions for yourself. It shares stories to demonstrate and bring to life these issues.

An expert like an Aging Life Care Professional™ who has both compassion and years of experience can help you develop a workable self-care plan and find the support you need. Find your very own Aging Life Care™ expert at

About the author: Jullie Gray has more than 30 years of experience in healthcare and aging. She is a Principal at Aging Wisdom in Seattle, WA. Jullie is the President of the National Academy of Certified Care Managers and a Past President of the Aging Life Care Association. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @JullieGray, or email her at Aging Wisdom has a presence on Facebook – we invite you to like our page.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.


Source: ALCA Blog