One-Fifth of Population Provides Unpaid Care, Study Finds
One out of five U.S. residents provides unpaid caregiving services to an adult, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, USA Today reports. Researchers surveyed 6,139 adults and identified 1,247 caregivers. The study estimates that about 44.4 million U.S. residents in 22.9 million households provide care to a family member (Kornblum, USA Today 4/6). Caregiving was defined as unpaid services provided by people ages 18 and older to people older than age 18. Researchers considered caregiving services ranging from help balancing a checkbook to assistance with daily activities such as eating, dressing or bathing (Lipman, Arizona Daily Star, 4/6). The study shows that 48% of caregivers provide eight or fewer hours of care per week, and 17% of caregivers say they provide more than 40 hours of care per week. For those providing 40 hours or more, 46% rate their physical strain as 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale, according to the study. Similarly, 63% rate emotional stress a 4 or 5 and 34% rate financial burden as a 4 or 5, the study says. The study also finds that 39% of caregivers are men, higher than the 25% found in earlier studies. On average, women spend four more hours caregiving than men do (USA Today 4/6). Researchers measured the impact of caregiving on the workplace, finding 60% of caregivers come to work late or leave early. In addition, 17% took time off, 10% switched from working full time to working part time and 10% left the workplace. Researchers estimate the annual cost of caregiving to be $257 billion (Arizona Daily Star 4/6).
Advocates of laws providing federal and state funding to caregivers "are likely to look closely at this study," according to USA Today. The National Family Caregiver Support Program provided $159 million to families this year, and the Bush administration has proposed $161 million for fiscal year 2005. According to the Census Bureau, the 65-and-over population will increase from 12% to 21% by 2050, most likely raising the number of U.S. residents who need caregiving (USA Today 4/6). The study is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.