The Evolution of the Family Caregiver

Posted by Meghan Orner on July 17, 2015

The Evolution of the Family Caregiver

Although close to 40 million Americans provide care for a loved one in some way, it can be hard to find a comprehensive source that encompasses all the aspects of caregiving. Until now. AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving recently released their Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report which sought to get an updated and accurate portrait of America’s typical family caregivers.

Startling Statistics

An online study of 1,248 participants who were caring for a person of any age was conducted in 2014 to get an comprehensive view of today’s caregivers and the challenges that they face, including balancing their careers and elder care, providing more than 21 hours of care a week and providing care to an aging loved one when the caregivers themselves are 75 years or older.

Below are the key findings from this extensive study:

  • The number of caregivers who provided unpaid care to an adult in 2014 was close to 40 million.
  • Out of all caregivers, only 40 percent are male, meaning that caregiving is still a predominantly female profession.
  • With the rising demand in caregivers, more and more adults 75 years or older remain caregivers (nearly one in 10).
  • On average, those who care for a spouse or loved one spend 44.6 hours a week providing that care versus the 24 hours a week typical caregivers provide.
  • Although there are multiple levels of care, 40 percent of caregivers view their care as a high burden responsibility while 18 percent view it as a moderate burden.
  • 50 percent of caregivers report not having a choice in taking on this caregiver role.

The report identified also identified typical family caregivers in the United Sates as having the following characteristics:

  • Average age: 49
  • Average hours spent a week caregiving: 24 hours
  • Average hours spent a week at outside job: 35 hours
  • Percent of caregivers providing care for a parent or parent-in-law: 49%
  • Percent of caregivers who perform medical and nursing tasks: 63%

Even if you don’t fit this portrait of today’s typical caregiver, the very idea of a ‘typical’ caregiver could disappear in coming years as “caregivers as a whole are becoming as diverse as the American population.”

Looking Ahead

A major concern that was brought up in this report is the future of caregiving. In today’s society, there are more than seven family caregivers available for those requiring care, but according to the senior vice president and director of AARP Public Policy Institute Susan Reinhard, only three family caregivers will be available for each person by 2050. This might not sound so bad, but it is important to note that these three people might provide care, not that they definitely will.

This report also brought concern over the fact that there are not enough services and programs available to help caregivers. Financial support, in particular, seems to be the biggest need for caregivers as one in five caregivers experience financial strain.

Even though this is certainly not the first study to bring awareness to these contemporary issues facing caregivers nationwide, this is perhaps one of the most extensive reports emphasizing the idea that we can and we should be doing more to support our caregivers not only for the sake of the caregiver, but also for the patient.


TAGS: typical family caregivers