Blog Series #1: A picture of today’s caregiver
November is National Family Caregivers Month. This is a great time to celebrate the caregivers in our lives and to learn more about the issues caregivers face every day.
“Caregiving in the U.S. 2015,” a joint research study between the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, was recently released and provides excellent data for understanding caregiving in America today. The report confirms some facts many people may already assume; most caregivers are women (60%), most caregivers are taking care of a relative (85%), and many caregivers are doing so without monetary compensation (34.2 million Americans in the past 12 months). But here are some fact that may surprise you: the average caregiver is 49 years old, nearly half of caregivers are providing care for a parent or parent-in-law; and the more hours a person spends caregiving, the more likely it is that she (or he) is caring for a spouse or partner.
Caregivers spend an average of 25.5 hours a week caring for their loved ones. This number nearly doubles if the caregiver is taking care of a spouse (44.6 hours a week). The report explains that the more hours spent caregiving, the more likely the caregiver is to “experience emotional stress, physical and financial strain, and impacts on their health.”
Half of caregivers (49%) reported they had no choice in taking on their caregiving responsibilities. Those caregivers are typically caring for a close relative with a long-term physical condition, memory problem, emotional/mental health problem, or behavioral issues. These are complex care situations that take a toll on the caregiver.
Caregiving After 75
This report specifically looked at caregivers who were over 75 years old and how they are different from younger caregivers. The report states that 7% of caregivers are 75 years of age or older. On average, this caregiver is a “79-year-old white unemployed female, currently providing care to 1 adult 34 hours a week without any unpaid help.” She has typically provided care for over five years to a “77-year-old male spouse who has Alzheimer’s, “old age” issues, or heart disease.”
These caregivers don’t typically experience significantly more emotional, physical, or financial strain than younger caregivers, but they are far more likely to provide care without unpaid help. They are also tasked with managing finances, as they are often caring for their spouses. This is especially difficult because they are more likely to be living with a fixed income.
Caregiving and Employment
Many caregivers (six in 10) will be employed at some point while performing caregiving duties. Many have to make accommodations at their workplace like taking a leave of absence or cut back on hours because of their caregiving duties. The more intense the caregiving responsibilities, the more likely the caregivers’ employer is aware of their situation.
The full report can be downloaded here, or by visiting the National Alliance for Caregiving website, www.caregiver.org.
Caregiving is challenging work, but the more we understand the caregiver experience, the more we can support the caregivers in our lives. In our caregiver blog series this month, we will provide more information about caregiving for different age group and support for caregivers. Stay tuned!
WISER’s November Caregiving Blog Series was written by Kassie Barroquillo.