There are far more Americans holding "second jobs" as family caregivers than either employers, or the federal government are aware of – and this "second job" could pose long-term problems for both.
A survey conducted for the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, funded by MetLife Foundation, estimates there are 44.4 million caregivers who provide unpaid care to another adult. Almost six in ten (59%) of these caregivers either work or have worked while providing care. And 62 percent have had to make some adjustments to their work life, from reporting late to work to giving up work entirely.
And, it's not just women, as some people might think. Almost four in ten (39%) caregivers are men, and 60% of them are working full-time. Our study shows a significant proportion of male caregivers. This is just not just an issue for women, but for everyone.
The study entitled "Caregiving in the U.S." was conducted to update and expand our knowledge about the activities caregivers say they perform, the perceived impact of caregiving on their daily lives, and the unmet needs of this population. Caregivers are people age 18 and older who help another person age 18 and older with at least one of thirteen tasks that caregivers commonly do on an unpaid basis. These activities range from helping another manage finances, shop for groceries, or do housework to helping another get in and out of beds or chairs, get dressed, get to and from the toilet, bathe or shower, or eat.
Gail Hunt, Executive Director for NAC, said the survey sheds light on the needs of the caregiving population. "This study found there is a tremendous need for information and education." Two-thirds of caregivers say they need help or information on at least one of fourteen activities or issues that caregivers commonly face.
The study indicates that three in ten caregivers carry the heaviest load. These people provide the most hours of care, fulfill the most demanding responsibilities, and are the most affected by their role. This group is more likely to report physical strain, emotional stress, and financial hardship as a result of their caregiving responsibilities compared to caregivers who provide fewer hours of care and perform less demanding tasks. Caregivers who provide the most intense levels of care may find their responsibilities complicated by the fact that they tend to be older and more likely to say their health is only fair compared to other caregivers. Women are more likely to be providing care at the highest levels compared to men.
Nearly eight in ten people who need care are age 50 or older (79%). Caregivers say that older care recipients' (ages 50+) main problem is aging (15%) and their main health problems are heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's or other mental confusion. Caregivers say that younger recipients' (ages 18-49) main problems are mental illness and depression (23%).
The average length of care is 4.3 years; however, three in ten caregivers report providing care for more than five years. Caregivers age 50 and older – who tend to be caring for mothers and grandmothers – are among the most likely to have provided care for 20 years or more. The survey found that 17 percent of caregivers between the ages of 50-64 years and 18 percent of those over age 65 have been providing care for more than a decade.