En español | Ask caregivers how they feel about their responsibilities and they’ll tell you that the positives far outweigh the negatives, according to a new AARP survey of family caregivers who are providing unpaid assistance for an adult age 50-plus.
In the survey, "Caregivers' Reflections on Changing Roles," the overwhelming majority of family caregivers said they are pleased they are able to help (91 percent), proud of what they’re doing (75 percent) and content with their role (74 percent). More than half (54 percent) say they have even found unexpected delight in caregiving.
“Giving back is a joy,” said one 60-year-old male respondent. “My father fought in the 442nd battalion and earned a Purple Heart. He deserves all the care in the world.”
The survey was conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 19, both online and via telephone. Data were collected from a nationally representative sample of 1,081 family caregivers ages 18 and older who care for a 50-plus adult. More than 40 million family caregivers in the U.S. provide unpaid short- or long-term care to a parent, spouse, friend or other adult loved one.
Other benefits caregivers cited include feeling a sense of satisfaction and having the opportunity to learn more about the person they are helping.
Caregivers who said they had prepared to assume the responsibilities were much more likely to report positive emotions, including majorities who feel “grateful,” “brave” and “lucky.”
The less prepared that caregivers said they were for taking on their new role, the more negative emotions they expressed in the survey. Two out of five said they were not prepared to become caregivers, and that lack of readiness coincided with higher levels of feeling ill equipped, overwhelmed, guilty, stressed, sad, resentful and worried. A majority of the unprepared caregivers reported such emotions, whereas only a minority of those who were ready for the job voiced such feelings.
Sentiments varied somewhat by the age of the caregiver, with significantly more millennials and Gen Xers than boomers saying their role made them feel strong and proud of what they were able to do. Millennial and Hispanic/Latino caregivers were most likely to have experienced an unexpected joy (64 percent and 62 percent, respectively). Larger proportions of the younger age groups also said their relationship with the loved one they were assisting had improved since they began providing care. At the same time, feeling stressed and overwhelmed was more of a problem for millennials and Gen Xers than for boomers.
The caregivers reported few regrets, with most of the concerns falling into the category of wishing they had done more, rather than wishing they had to do less. Most often, they are disappointed in themselves for not being more compassionate, not visiting more often and not being more financially prepared.
A 25-year-old caregiver summed up her regrets: “Sometimes I feel that I’m not doing enough or when I’m enjoying activities outside of caregiving that I should be doing something for the person I am caring for.”