Campus FAQ's: Caregiver

What The Heck Is A Caregiver, Anyway?

Blog By: Colleen Eccles & Alex Pfadenhauer, North Campus Leadership Team

Welcome back for the 2016-2017 Relay season! With the start of the new season and the semester, we have some great information to help you connect your committee and relayers with what it really means to be a caregiver. Within the college market caregivers are everywhere, yet no one knows what it really means to be one. There are two forms of caregivers: informal and formal. A formal caregiver is someone who is paid to provide care such as nurse, therapist, social worker and home health aids. College students working toward a degree within these fields will begin to identify within these specifications post graduation and be able to help families and patients. An informal caregiver is someone who is doing it out of love, respect and friendship. Most college and post college relayers will be able to find themselves identifying within this type of caregiving title. Being an informal caregiver can mean anything from sending a text, helping with transportation or just giving your time. 


What is a caregiver?


“A caregiver is a family member, friend, loved one, or other support person who lends physical, emotional, or other support to someone at any time during the cancer journey and continues to do so for those who have lost a loved one to cancer.“
-American Cancer Society            


Here’s a fun little exercise that can be used at committee meetings, at your event, etc. to help explain to other Relayers who a Caregiver truly is! (If using at a Relay event, skip the first step)

  1. Have the group brainstorm who a caregiver is:
    1. Use sheets from a flipchart and place them around the room, then divide the group up into small teams and let them work individually before bringing it back to the group
    2. Consolidate all of the groups’ ideas, and write them on the whiteboard
  2. Next, poll the group on what caregiver duties they have performed recently, by asking them to raise their hand or stand up as you call out each action
    1. First, start with the ideas from the brainstorming session. Use ‘formal caregiver’ actions first, then transition to more ‘informal caregiver’ actions. (If you are confused by formal vs. informal, see the CDC resources for caregivers!)
    2. Once you have exhausted the brainstorming ideas, transition to the list provided below. Make sure to hit the majority or all of the points on it!
  3. Now, explain what truly makes a caregiver:
    1. Explain that every single thing that people raised their hand for makes them a caregiver! If you raised your hand at any point, even if only once for calling and checking on someone, you are still considered a caregiver!
    2. Present the definition of a caregiver to reinforce that even the smallest efforts matter! (For example, use the CDC resources to explain formal vs. informal, and show that everyone ….. )
    3. Use the resources below as well as other cancer.org information to demonstrate the role and importance of caregivers.
  4. Call to action! Now, you need to utilize all of this new caregiver energy!
    1. Obviously, make sure they have registered and are fundraising for your event
    2. Encourage them to get their survivor or other caregivers involved
    3. Recruit them to lead the caregiver lap or volunteer at the survivor tent/meal/etc at your event
    4. Remind them to spread the word about what it means to be a caregiver! There are so many people who have no idea they qualify, but if we start spreading the word, it will 


You are a caregiver if you…

  • Drive them to or from treatment
  • Make (or buy) them meals
  • Send them a text checking in
  • Help with yardwork
  • Hold their hand during treatment
  • Pick up groceries for them
  • Help with personal care
  • Help out with household tasks 
  • .... Do anything to support a survivor or their family physically, emotionally or spiritually.

Additional Resources

(Material partially obtained from the American Cancer Society Eastern Division Relay For Life Survivorship Chair Guidebook and the American Cancer Society California Division Relay For Life Survivorship Handbook)