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A Social Worker’s Thoughts on Caregiving: Honoring Those Supporting Someone During National Family Caregivers Month

By Lauren Snedeker, DSW, LSW, LMSW

It was always something my two older brothers told me, sort of in a joking but serious way: You will take care of mom, right? After all, I was the only other woman in the family, and I am the closest with our mother. We speak every morning, and if there is anyone prepared to advocate on her behalf, with no advance care planning complete, might I add, it’s me.

Women largely make up the informal (or family) caregiving population, with 1 in every 7 women in the United States reporting to provide care to a family member or friend.

I never questioned this fate until I began working with caregivers as a social worker. Working on a helpline with caregivers, mostly women, opened my eyes to so much more than I ever learned in graduate school. For example, how not all caregivers are gratified through their caregiving role. How, in fact, it is possible for caregivers to resent their person, resent the need to be a caregiver, and be unhappy with this new part of their identity.

Conversely, I learned—perhaps even more surprisingly because of how often we associate burden with caregiving—that many have and continue to find joy in caring for someone. For many that I spoke with, this was an opportunity to transform their relationship with their person—and themselves.

As we all continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in myriad ways, it is important for providers across disciplines to be aware specifically how caregivers are living through each day.

1. Decisions about care are impacted. Because of the way COVID-19 has impacted care settings, specifically hospitals, long term care facilities, and other health care environments, people are electing to keep their persons home and delay support out of fear of getting sick.

2. Many services that caregivers relied on are not open at this time due to COVID-19, which means caregivers are managing more than perhaps they can handle for their person.

3. Risks associated with having necessary support at home for their person are enough to create substantial anxiety for a caregiver and their direct community.

4. Because of lockdowns and service closures, caregivers are likely living more isolated along with the individuals they are caring for. Under these circumstances, decompensation is likely to occur for both the caregiver and the care receiver.

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many have already written, is how the realities of long term care for older people and people living with chronic health conditions have been further exposed and therefore discussed more regularly by larger medical platforms.

Caregivers are our society’s unsung heroes, making a difference each day for the person they care for and those around them and the greater society. This month’s theme for National Family Caregivers Month, as declared by the Caregiver Action Network, is Caregiving in Crisis. Caregivers are continuing to provide support to their person despite challenges that have historically existed and new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Join me in not only acknowledging and celebrating this but also by considering what you can do to support family caregivers in your social work practice and beyond.

— Lauren Snedeker, DSW, LSW, LMSW, is an assistant professor of teaching and coordinator for the Aging and Health Certificate Program at Rutgers School of Social Work.


Bricking Leach, T. (2020, April 30). Should you take a loved one out of a nursing home during a pandemic? AARP. https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2020/remove-from-nursing-home.html

Caregiver Action Network. (2020). National Family Caregivers Month - #CaregivingInCrisis. https://caregiveraction.org/national-family-caregivers-month

Kaysen, R. (2020). Coronavirus’ impact on Gen X caregivers. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2020/coronavirus-gen-x-caregivers.html

National Alliance for Caregiving; AARP Public Policy Institute. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S. https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/caregiving-in-the-united-states-2015-report-revised.pdf

Roman, C., & Snyder, R. (2020, June 2). Supporting family caregivers in the time of COVID-19: State strategies. Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. https://www.chcs.org/supporting-family-caregivers-in-the-time-of-covid-19-state-strategies/

Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. (2020). Caregivers in crisis: Caregiving in the time of COVID-19. https://www.rosalynncarter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Caregivers-in-Crisis-Report-October-2020-10-22-20.pdf