Facts About Family Caregivers – Who They Are and What They Need

Family caregivers are increasing in numbers across the country, providing essential services to older adults they love.

The need for them is increasing as well.

Are you a family caregiver too? You probably are if you provide care or service to a loved one who is aging or has a disability without receiving payment.

Well, no payment beyond that feeling you get when you’ve helped make life better for one about whom you care.

It doesn’t matter how small or large an action you feel you’re providing — buying groceries for a neighbor, helping your parent pay their bills, doing laundry or cleaning, giving hands on personal care, cooking, or living with your senior loved one and providing all their daily care.

You are a vital piece of that older adult’s life!

It is no surprise that the care family members provide would cost a staggering amount if it was provided by someone we pay! According to the AARP, in 2013 family caregivers provided the equivalent $470 billion in unpaid care.

Because this is such a huge issue for our country and to be sure we are supporting family caregivers as we should, Pew Research Center investigated this issue and has some data for us to delve into.

Pew Research Center Caregiver Findings

As part of National Family Caregivers Month, the Pew Research Center recently released their findings about the state of the nation’s caregivers.

Some of this data doesn’t appear to be new but, as always, Pew has laid it all out with even more in depth information about each of their key findings.

We will go over each section of the report so that we can understand where we are now, where we are heading and parlay that into some recommendations about what caregivers need to support them in the years ahead so that they can continue providing care.

Unpaid Family Caregivers

  • There are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States.

The majority of family caregivers are providing care for their aging relative. This could be parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, spouse, sibling, neighbor or other relative.

The largest number of family caregivers are caring for one of their parents, according to this Pew report with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

70% of those providing care report helping one adult while 22% report caring for two adults.

Almost half of family caregivers have been providing care for two years or less but 15% have been doing it for more than 10 years.

What are they doing to help? The report indicates that they are helping with companionship, housework, medical care and personal care. This is not all as we know family caregivers are chauffeurs, chefs, advisors, appointment schedulers, tech troubleshooters, home repairmen (and women) and yard workers in addition to many more essential duties.

Family caregivers in this study provide care at minimum weekly but many give care daily.

What we also know is that many family caregivers are doing all these things while holding a full-time job (61% are employed, 50% work full-time) or caring for their own children or all of the above. Juggling all their duties can be difficult, stressful and allows no time to care for themselves.

Who Is The Caregiver?

  • Adults ages 45 to 64 are the most likely to be caregivers.

The report finds that 23% of caregivers caring for aging adults are 45-64 years old.

An interesting statistic that is certainly growing is that 17% of family caregivers are over 65 years. Of those caregivers over 65, 33% are caring for a friend or neighbor and 29% are caring for a spouse or partner.

What happens when older adult family caregivers burn themselves out and become too frail to be caregivers? Will they now need a caregiver?

What Are Family Caregivers Providing?

  • Most caregiving for aging parents is not in the form of financial support or personal care.

In the past year, 58% of family caregivers in this report helped with errands, housework or home repairs.

28% helped their aging loved ones financially. Those that help with money say that it was for a special circumstance or expenditure (50%) while others say it was an ongoing expense with which they assisted (43%).

14% say that they help with personal care items such as bathing or dressing. Women help with these tasks at a much greater rate than men.

As our loved ones age, family caregivers will be called upon to do more medical related care and will need more training in not just procedures, medication administration but dealing with aggressive behavior, depression and safety issues.

They will need more training to complete their caregiving tasks especially while juggling their personal duties.

Boosting Morale

  • Emotional support is a big part of caregiving.

Family caregivers, especially so for women, are providing more emotional support for their senior loved ones.

68% say they give emotional support sometimes while 33% say they give support frequently.

Family Caregivers Get Rewarded

  • Most adults who have helped an aging parent see it as rewarding; relatively few say it is stressful.

The stereotype is often that people who are family caregivers, especially when they are caring for their parents, are very stressed out and perhaps even burdened by their new role.

However, this is not supported by the findings in this report. In fact 88% reported stated that they found caregiving for a parent 65 or older to be rewarding.

Only 32% reported it to be stressful.

Only 8% of adults caring for aging parents felt that they were expected to do too much for their parents, more than they could handle. About 75% felt that what they were doing for their parents was the right amount of support for them to give.

Call to Action Takeaways

As our population ages, seniors are going to need more, not less, care in the future and people who will give them the care that they need will continue to be their family members. Few can afford to sustain paid caregiving and the government cannot either.

We have to find ways to support family caregivers so that they can continue to provide care without putting their own health at risk. If they aren’t able to do the caregiving, who will?

Family caregivers need:

  • Training not just in being a caregiver – providing care, transferring safely, conflict resolution, medical procedures, medication administration, technology, and a host of other tasks vital to caregivers, but also in stress management, personal care and health prevention.
  • Help with financial planning for themselves so that they don’t spend their own retirement money caring for their loved ones.
  • On the job support of their role as caregiver. They need employers to understand that they may need some flexibility due to responsibilities associated with caring for an older adult. They may need flex scheduling, paid time off or employee assistance for their own health.
  • Financial or tax incentives when they care for senior loved ones. They may have to cut back work hours, reduce pension savings, or quit jobs altogether to help at home.
  • Support from the healthcare team that cares for their seniors to give them resources, guidance and a listening ear when they need help.
  • A strong network to help them accomplish tasks of caregiving, be a friend and encourage them to care for themselves.
  • To be thanked occasionally for the good work they are doing!

We support you and strive to provide you with information to help you on your caregiving journey.

We also Thank You!

2 thoughts on “Facts About Family Caregivers – Who They Are and What They Need”

  1. Wow, this is so helpful for me! I’ve been working in home care for many years and have heard and seen more of the stressed out, frustrated caregivers. I love to hear that many caregivers are doing well with the care. I do a lot of education with baby boomers to get ready for what may come with agng family members and prepare them for taking this on. I am definitely finding that the more education has taken place prior to emergencies or decline in family member health, the better off everyone is. Sometimes, it just takes one small piece of info to change a life:)

    • Thank you for your comments Dianne! We agree completely that planning and readiness will help family caregivers handle the situation. We are all aging and our family members will need us to be able to help them so learning all we can will be most helpful!

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