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Voluntary caregiver is the modern terminology in some countries for an unpaid spouse, relative, friend or neighbor of a disabled person or child who assists with activities of daily living and assists those unable to fully take care of themselves. While the term "caregiver" may also apply to many professional providers of services, the words "voluntary caregiver" are broadly used in American English to describe those individuals other than parents whose contributions are normally not compensated as employment. The term used by most international organisations and agencies is, more simply "carer".
The services of one or more voluntary caregivers can be valuable in helping the disabled person live in their own home and/or with their own family, limiting the need and costs of professional home care services, or relocation to group home, assisted living, nursing home, or hospice care settings. Caregiver training is sometimes offered by professional agencies to share options and methods for voluntary caregivers to use.
As medical breakthroughs have changed some health problems from terminal to chronic, and life spans have gradually increased, and as average age of the population becomes older, the role of voluntary caregiver has been increasingly recognized as an important one, both functionally and economically. Many organizations which provide support for persons with disabilities have developed support for caregivers as well. Since much care giving is home-based, the Internet has also developed as a valuable tool to provide support and information to caregivers.
According to the United States National Family Caregivers Association, "more than 50 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year." . The vast majority of these are voluntary caregivers.
Carers in the UK
Around six million people in the UK provide care on an unpaid basis for a relative, friend or neighbour in need of support due to old age, disability, frailty or illness. The population of carers is dynamic: at least a third of all people will fulfil a caring role at some point in their lives.
At least half of all carers are in full or part time employment and some care for more than one person. Carers save the UK economy an estimated £57bn a year, and economic considerations form a key element in government policy to support carers.
Carers & Disabled Children Act 2000
This Act makes provision about the assessment of carers’ needs; to provide for services to help carers; to provide for the making of payments to carers and disabled children aged 16 or 17 in lieu of the provision of services to them and for connected purposes
The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004
This came into force in England on the 1st April 2005 and in Wales on 18th April. The Act gives carers new rights to information - Section 1 of the Act places a duty on local authorities to inform Carers of their right to a Carers Assessment. Ensures that work, life-long learning and leisure are considered when a carer is assessed - Section 2 means that when a Carer's Assessment is being completed it must take into account whether the carer works or wishes to work, any courses the carer is taking or wishes to take, and any other leisure activities the carer undertakes or wishes to undertake. Gives local authorities new powers to gain the help of housing, health, education and other local authorities in providing support to carers - Section 3 states that if the local authority requests another authority to plan services, that authority must give that request due consideration.
Carers (Recognition & Services) Act 1995
This Act was the first piece of UK legislation which formally recognised the role of unpaid carers and provides for the assessment of the ability of carers to provide care.
Government legislation affecting the care of children with disabilities includes:
- Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 - The Children Act 1989 - Convention on the Rights of the Child
Work and Families Act 2006
This Act, which came into force in October 2006, makes provision for improved maternity and adoption leave for women. It also extends the right to request flexible working for Carers.
References and additional reading
- CAREgiver Magazines
- Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Online
- Caregiver.com Magazine
- National Family Caregivers Association
- Care for the Caregiver video clip
- Family Caregiving 101 - Web site to acclimate someone who is just starting to care for a family member, loved one or disabled child on the resources and tools available
- National Alliance for Caregiving
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- American Heart Association's Heart of Caregiving site
- Carers UK
- The Princess Royal Trust for Carers
- Strength for Caring online resources for caregivers
Taking Care of Barbara: A Journey Through Life and Alzheimer's and 29 Insights for Caregivers, Bonnie Campbell McGovern
The Caregiver’s Tale: Loss and Renewal in Memoirs of Family Life, Ann Burack-Weissi
Caregiver Daily Journal By Sylvia Barron Baca
When The Man You Love Is Ill, Dr. Dorree Lynn
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