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The Number Of Caregivers Is Growing Along With The Strains

December 9, 2009

Caregiving is still mostly a woman's job and many women are putting their career and financial futures on hold as they juggle part-time caregiving and full-time job requirements. This is the reality reported in “Caregiving in the U.S. 2009,” the most comprehensive examination to date of caregiving in America, funded by MetLife Foundation and conducted for the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP by Mathew Greenwald & Associates. The study, the result of interviews with 1,480 caregivers chosen at random, reveals that both caregivers of adults and their care recipients are now older than their counterparts were 5 years ago. Among caregivers of adults, the average age rose from 46 to 49 and the average care recipient's age increased from 67 to 69, mainly because of an increase in the percentage age 75 or older (from 43 to 51 percent). The main reasons people need care are old age, Alzheimer's disease, mental or emotional illness, cancer, heart disease and stroke. Caregivers are receiving more help than they were 5 years ago—encouraging news since 1 in 6 caregivers report that caregiving has had a negative impact on their health. Since 2004, there has been a sharp increase in the share of caregivers of adults who say they are getting help from other unpaid caregivers. However, during the same time period, there has been a 6 percent decrease in those who report that their recipient uses paid help (this could be related to the recent recession). "More and more people who are 65-plus are providing care to both children and adults,” said Gail Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving. "The shift to an older population of caregivers points to a real need for assistance for these individuals from family, friends, employers and social service programs. With more support for caregiving, older and disabled people would be able to do what is so important to them, to remain in their own homes with those they love.” "Caregivers report they need help looking after their loved ones, but they also need help managing their own stress,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "Those surveyed suggested potential solutions for these challenges, including greater access to information resources, emergency response devices, transportation assistance, and respite services for caregivers.”