Friday, January 08, 2010

Identifying Caregivers

According to a new survey commissioned by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the AARP and the insurance group MetLife, about one in three adults in the United States cares for a loved one who is elderly, sick or has special needs. Two out of three unpaid caregivers are women.

Results from interviews with nearly 1,500 caregivers chosen at random found that — more often than not — caregivers are raising families and working outside the home in addition to caring for aging parents, chronically ill spouses, or children or grandchildren with special needs.

Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president of Livable Communities Strategies for AARP, told WebMD that some 65 million American adults are providing care to loved ones independent of traditional parenting roles. The typical caregiver, according to Ginzler, is a woman in her late 40s caring for a parent, most often her mother, who is in their late 70s or older. She notes that nearly three out of four caregivers who responded to the survey had paid jobs outside the home, and two-thirds said they had missed work as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. "Caregiving is traditionally women's work," she says. "And women are usually juggling work and family responsibilities while they are providing this care."

Other survey findings include:
  • Seventy percent of caregivers were taking care of loved ones who were 50 years old or older.
  • Caregivers provided an average of 20 hours per week of care.
  • Caregiving lasted an average of 4.6 years.
  • Older care recipients generally needed help because of deteriorating physical health (76%). More than half (51%) still lived in their own homes and 29 percent lived in their caregiver's home.
  • Old age was cited as the main reason for needed care by 12 percent of respondents, followed by Alzheimer's disease (10%), mental or emotional illness (7%), cancer (7%), heart disease (5%) and stroke (5%).
Many people don't recognize themselves as caregivers, even though they are, says Donna Schempp, program director for the Family Care Alliance. "As a result, they may not think to look for resources that can help them. Most caregiver support programs focus on teaching skills to improve patient care," she says. "While this is certainly important, it is also important to teach caregivers the skills they need to take care of themselves during a very stressful time." []

(From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

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