Tuesday, 19 January 2016
by Erin McAllister, Paralegal
There are an estimated 43.5 million caregivers in the U.S. (18.2% of the population). As baby boomers age, this number most likely will rise. The typical caregiver is a 49 year-old female caring for a 69 year-old relative due to a long-term physical condition. Twenty-two percent (22%) of caregivers are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The majority of caregivers are female (60%). 8 in 10 are taking care of one person (82%). A large majority of caregivers provide care for a relative (85%) with 49% caring for a parent or parent-in-law. 1 in 10 provides care for a spouse.
The care given by caregivers has been divided into three categories:
• ADL (Activities of Daily Living) - Bathing, Dressing & Feeding
• IADL (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) - Housework, Cooking & Managing Finances
• M/N (Medical/Nursing) Tasks - Injections, Tube Feedings & Colostomy Care
Higher-hour caregivers are almost 4 times as likely to be caring for a spouse/partner. Higher hour caregivers are defined as giving support for at least 21 hours each week. Higher-hour caregivers are a vulnerable population, more likely to experience emotional stress, physical and financial strain, and impacts on their health. They are performing a wide variety of care tasks for their loved one – everything from housework to advocating with health care professionals, to complex medical/nursing tasks often with little or no training. Their vulnerable position is seen in their greater desire for conversations with care professionals about their needs for both their own self-care and in providing care to the loved ones. They are more likely to want help or information about managing, and are more supportive of respite service policies. Experiencing emotional stress is more common among higher-hour caregivers. Over half of those who feel they had no choice in taking on their caregiving role report high levels of emotional stress (53%).
Nearly 1 in 10 caregivers is 75 years of age or older (7%). Caregivers age 75 or older are typically caring for a close relative (spouse, adult child, or sibling). They are the sole provider of care, and usually live with the care recipient. These caregivers, on average, have provided care for 5 ½ years and spend 34 hours per week performing multiple caregiving responsibilities. Many take on medical/nursing activities with little or no training.
In addition to ADLs and IADLs, family caregivers are increasingly performing tasks that nurses typically perform. Known now as medical/nursing tasks, these skilled activities include:
• giving injections,
• providing tube feedings,
• managing catheter and colostomy care, and
• many other complex care responsibilities.
On average, caregivers spend 24.4 hours a week providing care to their loved one. Nearly one-quarter provide 41 or more hours of care a week (23%). Caregiving is particularly time-intensive for those caring for a spouse/partner (44.6 hours a week).
Caregivers would benefit if the following issues were identified and addressed:
1. Identify high-risk caregivers.
2. Support caregivers in the workplace.
3. Provide resources to new caregivers.
4. Offer training.
5. Encourage advance planning for when caregivers can no longer provide care.
There are two reasons for the rapid rise in caregivers. Baby boomers are aging and that causes a stress on the programs and personnel required to meet the needs of those who are aging and needing more care. Those same baby boomers are living longer and want to stay in their own homes preferring also to die in familiar surroundings. Support and training would help alleviate some of the stress of caregivers and help to make their care better. Conversations to plan in advance for when care can no longer be provided by family and friends would alleviate some of the difficulties facing caregivers and their family members needing care.
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