Caregiver, or care giver, also called a ‘carer” in the UK and Australia, is a term normally given to unpaid relatives or friends of a disabled individual who help that individual with his or her activities of daily living.
The words may be prefixed with “family” “spousal”, “child” to distinguish between different care situations, and also to distinguish them definitively from the paid version of a caregiver, a Personal Care Assistant or Personal Care Attendant (PCA).
Around half of all carers are effectively excluded from other, paid employment through the heavy demands and responsibilities of caring for a vulnerable relative or friend. The term “carer” may also be used to refer to a paid, employed, contracted PCA.
Terms such as “voluntary caregiver” and “informal carer” are also used occasionally, but these terms have been criticized by carers as misnomers because they are perceived as belittling the huge impact that caring may have on an individual’s life, the lack of realistic alternatives, and the degree of perceived duty of care felt by many relatives.
More recently, Carers UK has defined carers as people who “provide unpaid care by looking after an ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner”. Adults who act as carers for both their children and their parents are frequently referred to as being members of “the Sandwich generation,” referring to the care provider as the “meat” in the middle of the two ends of care giving.
A widely-accepted official definition of a carer/caregiver is “[s]omeone whose life is in some way restricted by the need to be responsible for the care of someone who is mentally ill, mentally handicapped, physically disabled or whose health is impaired by sickness or old age.
With an increasingly aging population in all developed societies, the role of caregiver has been increasingly recognized as an important one, both functionally and economically. Many organizations which provide support for persons with disabilities have developed various forms of support for caregivers as well.