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New Family Caregiving Study Examines Use of Paid Care and Training Needs

June 11, 2015

The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP on June 9 released the findings of a new study that captures a picture of today’s unpaid caregivers, including who uses paid caregivers and what kind of training is needed, to establish a “new baseline for examining changes to caregiving in the future.”

The study, reported in Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, found that the “typical” family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who provides care to a relative but that overall, caregivers are “becoming as diverse as the American population.”

“We’re especially concerned that not enough is being done to support family caregivers in the public or private sector as they age,” said Gail Gibson Hunt, NAC president and CEO in a press release. “There’s a double-edged sword when we fail to support caregivers, because we put both the caregiver and the care recipient at risk.”

The researchers examined several core areas: the prevalence of caregivers in the U.S.; demographics and caregiver characteristics; the caregivers’ “situation,” including whether other unpaid or paid caregiving was provided; how caregiving affects stress, strain, and health; caregivers’ information needs; and public policy related to caregivers.

The 1,248 survey respondents, aged 18+ who provided care to someone age 18 or older, were categorized into two groups depending on how many hours of care they provided each week:

  • “higher-hour” caregivers provided at least 21 hours of care
  • “lower-hour” caregivers provided 20 or fewer hours of care

Regarding “paid caregiving,” the researchers found that:

  • 32 percent of the respondents, whose care recipients were not nursing home residents, reported that they got help from paid aides, housekeepers, or other people in the last year. The use of paid services was found to be comparable across higher- and lower-hour caregivers.
  • The use of paid help is more common among caregivers who are “less present, either physically or in their role as primary caregiver.”
  • The use of paid services is related to the care recipient’s “illness or condition” and his or her “presumed need for help with daily living.” Those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia are most likely to use paid services.
  • Lower-income caregivers are among the least likely to report that their relative receives paid help (27 percent of those with less than $30,000 in household income).

The researchers also found that in regards to national caregiving policies that would provide financial support, lower-income caregivers are more interested in being paid to provide care, while higher-income caregivers have a greater interest in receiving a tax credit for their care.

As for “training and information needs,” more than 84 percent of the caregivers reported that they could use more information or help with these caregiving topics:

  • Keeping their care recipient safe at home (42 percent),
  • Managing their own stress (42 percent), and
  • Help with making end-of-life decisions (22 percent).

Higher-hour caregivers are more likely than lower-hour caregivers to want information, 87 percent and 82 percent, respectively. The higher-hour caregivers are most interested in training to manage stress (51 percent), manage their relative’s challenging behaviors (18 percent), and deal with incontinence (17 percent).

“As previous AARP research has shown, we’re facing a caregiving cliff,” said Susan Reinhard, AARP Public Policy Institute senior vice president and director. “By mid-century, there will only be three caregivers available for each person requiring care. That means we need to provide support for existing caregivers who are underserved by the current long-term services and support system to avoid putting them at higher risk as they age.”

— by Deane Beebe

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