Family caregiving today is largely considered to be an issue affecting mainly adult children and their parents. This focus reflects the demographics of an aging population, but it misses a significant group—spouses who are caregivers. A recent national survey of family caregivers of adults conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund found that 1 in 5 family caregivers is a spouse.
Spousal caregivers are particularly vulnerable because they are older, have lower educational levels and less income, and are less likely to be employed than nonspousal caregivers. Spousal caregivers are more likely than nonspousal caregivers to provide assistance with medical/nursing tasks such as medication management and wound care. Yet they are less likely to receive support from family and friends and are far less likely to have home visits from health care professionals and aides. Efforts to reduce isolation and stress, as well as targeted training and support, are needed to protect the health and well-being of both partners. This is the second of three Insight on the Issues that looks into the different roles a family caregiver is in while performing complex medical/nursing tasks.