If you are a caregiver, you know who you are: Your days are filled with balancing work, the needs of your own family, and caregiving responsibilities. There's no doubt this juggling act takes its toll on you. That's why it's so important to recognize when you're stressed and to do something about it. Remember, if you don't care take of yourself, you can't take care of someone you love.
In this column, I'm excited to share the top findings from a new report, "Caregiving in the U.S. 2009" issued by the National Alliance for Caregiving, in collaboration with AARP and with funding from the MetLife Foundation. The analysis—based on survey data from more than 1,450 respondents—paints a detailed picture of caregivers by showing:
- Who caregivers are
- To whom they are providing assistance
- What caregivers do in their unpaid roles
- The impacts of caregiving responsibilities on a person's personal and professional lives
Below, I also offer tips on how caregivers can deal with the stress they feel from caring for a loved one and how others can support family, friends, and neighbors who are providing caregiving assistance.
The Average Caregiver's Profile
"Caregiving in the U.S. 2009" estimates that 43.5 million people age 18 and older are providing unpaid care for others age 50+. That number amounts to 19 percent of all American adults!
The profile of the average caregiver is a 50-year-old female taking care of a 77-year-old woman, usually her mother. This profile is somewhat different when we look at ethnic groups. The average African-American caregiver is a slightly younger female, age 48, taking care of a 74-year-old woman; for Hispanics, the average age is an even younger female, age 43, taking care of a 74-year-old woman. On average, all caregivers spend approximately four years providing assistance to their loved ones.
People need caregiving assistance for all sorts of reasons. As people get older, they often require help with basic daily tasks, such as getting dressed, eating, bathing, or getting in and out of beds or chairs. What's also important, recipients need help keeping their households going, doing chores around the house, grocery shopping, paying the bills, and getting to doctor's appointments. Finally, older loved ones can often use assistance to keep up their relationships by visiting their friends.
Older adults take an average of five medicines daily, and 96 percent of all caregivers ensure that their loved ones take the proper medicine, at the correct dosage, at the right time of day.
"Caregiving in the U.S. 2009" also reveals that most care recipients live in suburbs. However, for both African Americans and Hispanics, their principal residence is in a city. Although each caring relationship is geographically unique, more than half of all caregivers live within 20 minutes of their loved ones.
The Stresses of Caregiving
Make no mistake about it: Caregiving is hard. You love your family member, but leaving the office after a full day to help Mom or Dad, and then going home to take care of your family, can be exhausting. Three of four caregivers work full-time while providing an average of 20 hours per week of assistance. Let's face it—caregiving is a demanding part-time job!