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Many caregivers have multiple responsibilities. The great majority of caregivers are women (75 percent)–a quarter of whom care for both older parents and children. Half of all caregivers also work outside the home. It is no wonder then that caregivers-whether they are full or part-time-need respite and support. Otherwise the demands and constraints of caregiving can become overwhelming.

  • More than one quarter (26.6%) of the adult population has provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during the past year. Based on current census data, that translates into more than 50 million people. Source: National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) Random Sample Survey of 1000 Adults, Funded by CareThere.com, Summer, 2000. 

  • Caregiving is no longer predominantly a women’s issue.  Men now make up 44% of the caregiving population. Source: National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) Random Sample Survey of 1000 Adults, Funded by CareThere.com, Summer, 2000. 

  • The value of the services family caregivers provide for “free” is estimated to be $257 billion a year. Source: Peter S. Arno, “Economic Value of Informal Caregiving,” presented at theAmerican Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, February 24, 2002. 

  • Virtually one half of the US population has a chronic condition. Of these 41 million were limited in their daily activities. Twelve million are unable to go to school, to work, or to live independently. Source: Chronic Care in America (Institute for Health & Aging, Univ. of CA/SF for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) 1996 

  • People over 85 years of age are the fastest growing segment of the population. Half of them need some help with personal care. Source: US Bureau of the Census Statistical Brief, Sixty Five Plus in the United States, May 1995 

  • Elderly caregivers with a history of chronic illness themselves who are experiencing caregiving related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than their non-caregiving peers. Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, December 15, 1999, Vol. 282, No. 23.

  • The pool of family caregivers is dwindling. In 1990 there were 11 potential caregivers for each person needing care. In 2050 that ratio will be 4:1.  Source: Chronic Care in America – as above 

  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of “intense” family caregivers (those providing at least 21 hours of care a week) have suffered from depression. Some studies have shown that caregiver stress inhibits healing.  Source: National Family Caregivers Association/Fortis Long Term Care (Caregiving Across the Life Cycle) 1998;  Lancet 1995;346 (Slowing of Wound Healing by Psychological Stress – Kiecolt-Glaser, JK et al) 

  • Heavy duty caregivers, especially spousal caregivers, do not get consistent help from other family members. One study has shown that as many as three fourths of these caregivers are “going it alone”. Source: Caregiving Across the Life Cycle – as above 

  • Approximately 80% of home care services are provided by family caregivers. Source: US General Accounting Office (GAO/HEHS 95-26, “Long-Term Care: Diverse, Growing Population Includes Millions of Americans of All Ages”) 1994 

  • A recent study calculated that American businesses loses between $11 billion and $29 billion each year due to employees’ need to care for loved ones 50 years of age and older.  Source: National Alliance for Caregiving/Met Life (Met Life Study of Employer Costs for Working Caregivers) 

  • Fifty nine percent of the adult population either is or expects to be a family caregiver. Source: National Family Caregivers Association (Random Sample Survey of 1,000 Adults Sponsored by Aleve) 

  • As a caregiver, you are one of 12 million Americans who spend all or part of their day assisting at least one of 5 million people (usually a family member) who need help to remain at home.

 

Furthermore, many working caregivers find that the demands of their job and caregiving responsibilities conflict. When this happens it is important to discuss your needs with your supervisor. Flex time, job sharing or rearranging your schedule may help to minimize your stress. Increasingly, companies are also offering resource materials, counseling, and training programs to help caregivers.

 

Do not hesitate to ask other family members to share in the responsibility of caregiving as well. Your siblings, if they live nearby, have just as much reason as you to assist their aging parent. If you are a caregiving spouse with siblings and/or adult children make your needs known to them. A family conference can often help in sorting out the tasks and schedules that other family members are able to assume. And don’t forget neighbors and friends who may be willing to provide transportation, respite care, and help with shopping, household chores and repair tasks.

 

The help provided by you, other family members, friends and neighbors may still not be enough to enable an older person to remain independent. In this case you will need to look for other avenues of support. One of the first places you should contact is your Area Agency on Aging (AAA). If your family member has a limited income, he or she may be eligible for services provided through the AAA including homemaker home health aide services, transportation, home-delivered meals, chore and home repair as well as legal assistance.

 

Tips For Caregivers

  • Choose to take charge of your life, and don’t let your loved one’s illness or disability always take center stage.

  • Remember to be good to yourself. Love, honor and value yourself. You’re doing a very hard job and you deserve some quality time, just for you.

  • Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.

  • When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do.

  • Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. Information is empowering.

  • There’s a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one’s independence.

  • Trust your instincts. Most of the time they’ll lead you in the right direction.

  • Grieve for your losses, and then allow yourself to dream new dreams.

  • Stand up for your rights as a caregiver and a citizen.

  • Seek support from other caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone.

Compiled by the National Family Caregivers Association

 

REACH counselors are available to provide further assistance and referrals for care-giving related concerns. To speak to a counselor contact REACH at 1-800-273-5273.

 

Suggested website for additional information:

www.nfcacares.org

 www.fiavolunteers.org