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Family Caregiving in the U.S.: Findings from a National Survey

Numerous studies have been conducted on various aspects of unpaid family caregiving of older adults. This study, however, is the first of its kind to systematically identify and profile the various impacts of family caregiving, using survey methodology, across four racial and ethnic groups within the United States: Whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.

Results identified five levels of care, with Level 1 providing less than 8 hours of care per week and Level 5 averaging more than 56 hours per week. The responsibilities involved in providing care impacted family life, leisure time, work life, personal finances, and in some cases physical and mental health. Level 5 caregivers reported spending more out-of-pocket on caregiving than caregivers of any other level, and close to one-third of them had experienced physical or mental health problems as a result of caregiving. These caregivers also made more extensive work-related adjustments and were more likely to be using supportive community services. Service utilization rates were lowest among Asian caregivers, while Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than Whites or Asians to cite caregiving as a financial hardship. The most frequently cited need among caregivers was time for oneself, particularly among Level 5 caregivers, those caring for someone with dementia, and primary caregivers.

The study was designed as a telephone survey to be used with a nationwide random sample of English-speaking caregivers aged 18 and older, with oversamples of African American, Hispanic, and Asian caregivers. A total of 1,509 caregivers—623 Caucasians, 306 African Americans, 307 Hispanics, and 264 Asian Americans—completed the telephone survey between August 13 and September 20, 1996. Respondents were currently providing care or had provided care during the past year to a relative or friend aged 50 and older. For more information, contact Linda L. Barrett at 202-434-6197. (40 pages)