Need to Know
Issue No. 3: Words from the Wise
WORDS - DIANA MCDONNELL
ILLUSTRATION - STEPFANIE AGUILAR + HANNAH CANDELARIA
A person who provides unpaid care in response to functional impairment or chronic illness of a family member, friend, or neighbor, is often referred to as a caregiver. Caregiver strain refers to the physical, emotional, and financial strain that the role of caregiving can take on a person. Often, caregivers are those who step up naturally to take care of a family member or friend. Caregiving activities include assistance with day-to-day activities, helping with management of illness, as well as acting as a patient advocate and even accompanying someone to their healthcare appointments. The demands of caregiving can lead to isolation, stress, and eventually burnout. Caregivers are less likely to seek or access medical care for themselves, and they are also at increased risk of anxiety and depression.
Women provide the majority of caregiving, often on top of their paid work or profession. Estimates indicate that about 20 percent of all female workers in the United States are also family caregivers. Sometimes this leads to passing up a job promotion, switching to part-time, quitting, taking a leave, or retiring early.
In the case of the LGBTQ+ community, many LGBTQ+ elders may have already been caregivers during the AIDS crisis. LGBTQ+ individuals often become caregivers for their partners or friends, not just their aging parents. LGBTQ+ caregivers are more likely to be caring in isolation, and to be within the same age group as the person they are caring for. Caregivers can experience poorer mental and physical health than non-caregivers, exacerbating the health disparities that LGBTQ+ people already experience.