Family Caregiver and Professional Caregiver Relationships

On October 19th Michael Lindenmayer from Caregiver Relief Fund and Joe Ferguson at Wellspring Personal Care presented on Family Caregiver and Professional Caregiver Relationships. The meeting was graciously hosted by Lincolnwood Place retirement community. Although the weather was awful the attendance for the event provided a great forum to discuss the tsunami for aging in place recipients and the informal caregivers who provide care.

The statistics are staggering.

  • In the US, for Alzheimer’s alone, there are 15 million Caregivers; as a single group they would be equivalent to the 5th largest state in the US, somewhere between Illinois and the state of Florida.
  • In 2010 unpaid caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care.
  • The value of the unpaid services provided by unpaid family member caregivers across all aging care needs is accessed at $365 billion per year.
  • Informal caregiver’s lifespan can be lessened as much as ten years due to multiple stressors such as anxiety related to care responsibilities, poor nutrition, untreated depression, lack of rest and support from the community and or family members.
Topics covered at the October Chicago Bridge Event were, when to plan for home care needs, what are the key components to have successful home care and how to prevent burn out. Michael Lindenmayer presented on the non-profit services of the Caregiver Relief Fund and of the community based education program, Wisdom Flame. It is essential to build a team effort that includes the family, local community and professionals. Wisdom Flame focuses on helping wake people up to the issue and this mindset.

A key factor of success for building a professional team is;

• Bridging the experience gap: most families have not had professional service in the home. Caregiver Relief Fund provides timely relief and experience by coordinating services with licensed home service agencies. • Clear expectations on both sides (the family and the professional provider). • Cross cultural education (in most cases there will be a multi-ethnic experience between caregivers and care receivers).

Dilemma of Communication

Joe Ferguson discussed the dilemma of communication and understanding between informal caregivers with formal caregivers. There is a lack of publications and information on the dynamics of a critical relationship between the informal caregiver and the formal caregivers. There is also a critical need for this relationship to be acknowledged by professionals in the field of aging. It is not only the identified care recipient who has needs; the informal caregiver has many needs that require attention so as to enable the caregiver to provide good care. There are many assessment tools for the identified client, however more research is needed to assess the needs of the informal caregivers.

Formal Caregiver Profile

When hiring caregivers, private duty agencies place great emphasis on selecting individuals who have the right personal traits to provide high quality, relationship-based care. The most important traits that home care agencies look for in their caregivers are: compassion, positive attitudes, communication skills and patience. Private duty home care companies report the following characteristics about their caregivers: • 93 percent are female; 7 percent are male • 64 percent have previously cared for an elderly family member or friend • 19 percent retired from another profession prior to becoming a caregiver • 17 percent are first generation immigrants to the United States • 750,000 estimated number of private duty caregivers (Not enough to meet the demand)

Key recommendations

  1. Get help sooner, rather than later.
  2. More evidenced based research on aging in place relationships between informal and formal caregivers.
  3. Help to avert financial ruin.
  4. Help to avert healthcare related issues for the unpaid family caregiver.
  5. It is essential to vet in detail who the caregiver agency of choice is;                • Help avert the $3b per annum in elder fraud                • Help avert elder abuse                • Utilize a licensed, reviewed and professional organization vs Craig’s list

Group Discussion

Participants were able to share personal experiences of being a caregiver along with the challenges of being a family caregiver with a professional background in aging. There were questions about the differences between Home Service and Placement Agencies – see more about this below.

Requirements for IDPH Licensure

Home Services Agency               Placement Agency Supervisory Visits                                   None Liability Insurance                                  None Employee Bonding                                 None Service Documentation                         None Annual Employee Training                   None Service/Care Plan                                 None Exploitation Reporting                         None Communicable Disease Policy           None
Additional recommendations are to request drug testing, background checks and verify references.  


As a licensed Masters level graduate of the University of Illinois Jane Addams College of Social Work with a concentration in Community Health and Urban Development, Joe is uniquely qualified to interface with families in crisis and assist in linkage to community resources. Joe’s additional training is in Elder Abuse as a Case Worker, and in Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregivers Health (REACH); an evidence based intervention to assist family caregivers with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease.With experience as a mental health counselor on a hospital geriatric inpatient unit to co-authoring an article on self-determination and motivational interviewing, Joe embraces the concept of "meeting clients’ where they are at" and advocates for client’s needs.

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