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By: Sheila Borgen, PT

What is a caregiver? This question cannot be answered simply, as a caregiver is a valuable component of patient care with many facets. A caregiver is first and foremost someone who cares. Someone who wants the best for a patient and knows that they can be a part of providing what is best. 


A caregiver is giving. They give time, resources, energy, and patience. They ask nothing in return.


For individuals who have never needed assistance, the thought of a caregiver can be frightening at first. The patient may feel like they are losing even more of their independence and that having another person in the picture may rob them of the few things they can still accomplish. Setting a good foundation of understanding between a caregiver and a patient is critical. 

Let’s talk about some good boundaries between a caregiver and a patient. 


  1. It is vital that a caregiver does not feel obliged to complete a task that may put them at risk of physical injury. For example, if the patient falls, the caregiver should not feel obliged to attempt to get them up from the floor unassisted. Instead, they should be sure the patient is in a safe environment and call for help. Volunteer firefighters help people up from the floor daily and are happy to do so. 


  1. If the caregiver is sick, they should stay away from the patient. Sharing germs with a fragile patient could lead to significant illness or even death. They cannot fight germs as well as younger, healthier individuals.

  2. Caregivers need breaks to enjoy a day off, or even just a few hours away. Caregivers can get burnt out. They get tired. Having a backup support system is critical when managing an ill patient. No one can give 100% every day of the week and not wear down.  


  1. Allowing the patient to participate in daily activities to their greatest ability will ensure them that the caregiver is not trying to rob them of their independence. 


As we know, physical therapy is a critical part of the rehab process for the sick or injured patient. For a therapist, having caregiver involvement in patient care is a dream.


If you are a caregiver, maintaining a relationship with the therapist can be quite valuable. Share with the therapist your concerns. Let them know issues that you may have at home with the patient. 


Ask questions. 


Be involved in the treatment sessions. 

A therapist can guide you in injury prevention for yourself and your loved one. They can educate you in strategies to prevent patient falls. They can teach you approaches that will help improve your ability to assist the patient in a safe manner. 


Physical therapists enjoy being a part of the solution to caregiver concerns. Remember, therapists are not only there for the patient’s well-being, but also for the caregiver. 

Sheila Borgen, PT, Author

Sheila is a freelance writer for physical health, mental health, and parenting. She has four exceptional children, one adopted from South Korea. She lives in Alabama with her husband and children. Sheila enjoys cheering her children on at archery tournaments, soccer games, and color guard performances. She has over 25 years of experience as a physical therapist with a special love for the senior population.


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