Family Caregiver Categories

There are different categories of family caregivers and although each may have similar experiences and face similar challenges, the extent of these similarities and differences may vary.

Primary Caregiver: The family member who takes the most active role in caregiving. They often help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like personal hygiene, dressing, getting in and out of bed.  They also handle a lot of instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) like taking medication, housework, shopping, transport and using equipment or technology.

Alpha Caregiver: This is often the final decision maker on how family caregiving will be provided, even though they may not be the ones providing the daily care. This may be shaped by things like cultural influences, the position they have in the family, their financial capability or their personality.

Co-resident Caregivers: In-home or co-resident caregivers live with the family member in need of care. Co-residency by itself does not automatically translate to caregiving as it is possible for several family members to live with a care recipient but not all are engaged in the caregiving role. They are often the primary family caregiver and help with ADLs and IADLs.

Long Distance Caregivers:  Those who live an hour or more away from the person being cared for. They may therefore help more with IADLs. Very importantly, where there is a co-resident family caregiver, they also provides emotional support and respite for him/her.

Nearby Caregivers: Live less than 1 hour away from their care recipient and may provide support for both activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).

As a family caregiver, it is possible to be more than one of these. Knowing which type of caregiver you are is helpful for recognising and understanding the unique situations that come with that. It also helps to give perspective to some of the causes of wider family communication challenges and conflict that arise in the family caregiving journey.