Thursday, December 10, 2009

Caregiving in the United States Today

cross-posted from the PathWays PA Policy Blog

A new report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP reveals the demographics and characteristics of adults providing care for other adults over 50 in the United States. This report, Caregiving in the U.S.: A Focused Look at Those Caring for Someone Age 50 or Older, examines the changes in caregivers and care recipients since 2004.

Among the numbers, one set that stands out shows the number of caregivers who needed work accommodations to provide care. 68 percent of caregivers reported needing some accommodation, an increase of 5 percentage points from 2004. Most caregivers (64 percent) reported a need to go to work late, leave early, or take time off to provide care, an increase of 6 percentage points since 2004. Almost 75 percent of caregivers work.

The need for caregiving is only going to grow as the US population continues to age. In the next 25 years, the number of Americans over age 65 is expected to double. In 2012, little more than two years away, half of the labor force is expected to be a caregiver.

We need to take steps now to ensure that caregivers have the support they need in the workplace. Legislation such as the Healthy Families Act, which gives workers the opportunity to earn up to seven days of paid leave per year to care for themselves or their family, can mean the difference to caregivers who struggle to keep their jobs and provide the services their recipient needs. The CLASS Act, meanwhile, would give workers the opportunity to begin setting aside money now that could be used in retirement to pay for long-term care in the home. It is currently part of the healthcare reform package.

Please take action on these important bills, and continue reading to learn more from the new report on caregiving. A few other findings:
  • In 2009, there are 43.5 million caregivers (about 19 percent of all adults) providing unpaid care for someone over 50. Most care for family members, often their mother. On average, caregivers are 50 years old, while care recipients are 75. In contrast, caregivers and care recipients in 2004 were on average two years younger than those surveyed this year.
  • Old age and Alzheimer's/confusion were tied as the main illness identified by the caregiver, with each receiving 15 percent of the results. Interestingly, those reporting Alzheimer's increased significantly, from 8 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2009. The study's authors attribute increased reports of Alzheimer's to the aging of the population in care. Most other illnesses remained unchanged, although there were significantly decreased reports of diabetes as the main factor.

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