Besides opening the holiday season, Thanksgiving week is also National Family Care-givers week, to celebrate and thank the people who give their time, love and assistance to frail elderly relatives and friends.

"Care-giving is an act of compassion," said Salt Lake County Commissioner Mike Stewart. "Care-giving is often physically and emotionally exhausting. Often it becomes a full-time job and an added responsibility to the care-giver's usual living routine; most likely their lives are interrupted with unforeseen problems."Most care of the elderly is provided by families, rather than government agencies. The once-proud, independent senior citizens frequently find themselves frightened and feel helpless, angry and confused. Stewart said care-givers help alleviate fears and assure them they will be cared for.

In 1987 the Association of American Retired Persons (AARP) and the Travelers Companies Foundation conducted a survey of care-givers nationally. The survey found that 7 million U.S. households are involved with the daily living of an older, frail person.

Three-quarters of care-givers are women, and the average age is 46. Of these, 65 percent are married, but only 37 percent share a household with the disabled person. One-third became care-givers because they live nearby; 18 percent are care-givers because they have a close relationship with the one in need and 16 percent because "no one else would do it."

Half spend at least 12 hours a week providing care, 11 percent give constant care and 28 percent give eight hours or less a week. Sixty percent incur expenses for travel, phone bills, special diets and medicines.

Of those who receive care, half live in their own homes. About 58 percent are homebound, with 28 percent of those bedridden and 24 percent in wheelchairs. By far the majority, 70 percent, suffer chronic illnesses.