Dec 9, 2009

Caregiving in America Fact Sheet

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Prevalence of Caregiving
  • An estimated 65.7 million people in the U.S. are serving as unpaid family caregivers to an adult or a child.
  • 48.9 million are adult only caregivers.
  • Caregivers are predominantly female (66%).
  • They are 48 years of age, on average.
  • One third take care of two or more people (34%).
  • A large majority of caregivers provide care for a relative (86%).
  • Over one-third are taking care of a parent (36%).
  • One in seven care for their own child (14%).
  • Caregivers have been in their role for an average of 4.6 years.
  • Three in ten for five years or more (31%).
  • The typical recipient of care is also female (62%) and averages 61 years of age.
  • Seven in ten caregivers take care of someone 50 years of age or older.
  • 14% take care of an adult age 18 to 49.
  • While 14% take care of a child under the age of 18.

Caregiver Recipient Condition

  • The largest group are old 12%.
  • Alzheimer's or dementia accounts for 10% (10% versus 6% in 2004).
  • Other categories include:  mental/emotional illness (7%), cancer (7%), heart disease (5%), and stroke (5%).
Caregiving Activities and Burden of Care

  • On average, caregivers spend 20.4 hours per week providing care.
  • 13 percent spend more than 40 hours per week.

Note: This is a survey on unpaid caregivers. As the population ages these numbers are likely to climb.

Right now, it appears our elected officials only respond to problems after a crisis exists for a long period of time. If only a small fraction of unpaid family caregivers dropped-out, it is likely that the Medicaid system would bear the burden. This could amount to trillions of dollars in the long run.

It would make more sense for politicians to look at the current trends and to investigate solutions to the problem. Part of the solution is to provide small incentives for caregivers to insure that they keep their elderly parents at home; rather than putting them into nursing care facilities paid for with taxpayer dollars.

We hear over and over how Medicare and Medicaid are becoming are larger part of the Federal budget deficit. The problems that are occurring now have been known and recognized in Washington for more than 30 years. Medicare and Medicaid have been debated in every Presidential election since 1980. While our politicians are quick to promise they have not adequately addressed these issue.

In fact, the lowering of income taxes in 2001, and the rebates have only worsened the problem. A better solution would have been to use the surplus to solve known problems.

We will all pay for this lack of responsible fiscal management in the long run. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Sources of information Wall Street Journal -- The Juggle and Caregiving in the U.S.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room