Eldercare is a decision that affects everyone at some point. This may occur directly by deciding between becoming a caregiver or making arrangements with a long-term care facility. At present, nearly one-third of the U.S. population is engaged directly in a caregiver role. Others experience this phenomenon indirectly by watching someone near and dear make these life-changing decisions for themselves and the ones they love.

While a variety of care facilities exist for the elderly, many people would prefer to spend the golden years in their own homes or in the home of a loved one. Accepting the requirement for assistance that aging can bring is often a challenge, a process that can be eased by arranging for help from family or friends. This makes the process of home care, and the caregivers who provide it, a precious resource. In economic terms, unpaid family members provide approximately $450 billion dollars worth of services, making them the leading source of eldercare in America.

Caregivers provide an invaluable service to their families and communities. One of the greatest challenges they may face, however, is a sense of having immense responsibility and few resources. Fortunately, the National Family Caregiver Support program was initiated in the year 2000 precisely for the purpose of assisting individuals and families facing the challenges of caregiving. More than 89% of participants during the first ten years of the program have reported that the services the program made possible helped them to become better providers of care to their loved ones.

One of the primary aims of the Caregiver Support Program is to ensure that caregivers have greater awareness of the services for which they may qualify and from which they may benefit. This includes counseling and training services that can help individuals understand the needs of both themselves and the loved one for whom they provide care. Additional services that may be available to some caregivers includes financial assistance, a process made more navigable thanks to the program.

Another available service is respite care, the temporary relief from caregiving duties. A trained individual can arrange to provide care for short periods at regular intervals or on an as-needed basis. This allows the full-time caregiver to tend to his or her personal needs without worrying about the health and safety of the loved one. A few hours a week can be all the help a caregiver needs in order to continue assisting his or her loved one. This is one of the essential services that may help more than 75% of participants to report that they were able to keep their loved ones at home longer thanks to the program.

Although eldercare comprises the majority of caregiver roles, there are many other circumstances that inhibit independent living and thus require a caregiver. Terminal illness, physical or mental disability and other life challenges can require a range a services. Caregivers ensure these are administered at home, in familiar surroundings and amongst loved ones. For many, this is both more affordable and enjoyable than moving to a care facility.

Being watched after in a time of need can be a transformative experience for both a person in need and for a caregiver. Despite the wealth of compassion that can motivate a caregiver, the fact remains that their duties are some of the most physically and emotionally demanding. After all, who takes care of the caregiver? Having a resource document for caregivers entitled "Taking care of yourself" is a testament to the importance of this topic for them and for all Americans to consider.