Four Kinds of People

The King County Caregivers Support Network website provides valuable links to the agencies that provide coaching, counseling, training, information, referrals, and more.

"There are only four kinds of people in the world—those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers."—Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

Ms. Carter has it right. Although you may not be caring for someone at this time, you most certainly know someone who is helping a loved one continue to live independently despite challenges related to age and/or ability.

Family caregivers are the mainstay of our long-term care system. About two-thirds of non-institutionalized adults who need help with "activities of daily living" depend solely on family and close friends. In Washington state, approximately 15 percent of adults are informal (unpaid) caregivers. The primary challenges those caregivers face? According to a 2007 statewide survey, the top challenge is stress, followed closely by not having enough time for self or family and negative impacts on family relationships.

Caring for an adult on a regular basis—fixing their meals, driving them to appointments, helping them with chores, paying their bills, organizing their medications—is time-consuming and stressful, and stress can take a toll on caregiver and care receiver alike. With sufficient support, however, caregiving can be a tremendously rewarding experience.

Kinship care is on the rise!

More than 18,000 King County residents are raising younger family members who are not their children by birth—grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and others. Local kinship care resources are available through the Kinship Navigator Program.

Over the past decade, federal and state governments have recognized caregiver stress as a significant health issue and funded family caregiver support programs (FCSPs). Aging and Disability Services is fortunate to administer those funds, which benefit residents throughout King County.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver, here are some things you should know:

  • Family caregiver support is available to any unpaid primary caregiver age 18+ who cares for another adult age 18+ with functional disabilities.

  • Despite the program name, a family relationship is not required. Often friends and neighbors serve as primary caregivers.

  • We reach out to underserved communities; however, caregivers in all income brackets are welcome to call for services.

  • Our department contracts with 10 agencies that screen caregivers, assess needs, coordinate care plans tailored to the caregivers' individuals needs, and provide support services such as counseling, consultation, training, support groups, respite care, referrals to health and wellness services, and resources to assist with physical barriers (e.g., bath bars).

  • Most services are free, while respite (substitute care that allows the caregiver to take time off) is available on a fee basis.

In addition to negotiating and administering contracts with providers, Aging and Disability Services established the King County Caregiver Support Network website to educate local caregivers about available services, and we reached out to neighborhood groups, churches, and service organizations.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver, please visit at your earliest opportunity. Wouldn't it be nice to know you're not alone?

Jesse Eller is the director of Aging and Disability Services (ADS), the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County.