For many Americans, providing care to a family member, friend, or neighbor has become part of daily life. According to a study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 43.5 Million Americans provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year.
These caregivers, often referred to as informal caregivers, are unpaid individuals who are helping with daily activities many people take for granted – like bathing, dressing, making meals, or housekeeping. The study reports that a vast majority of informal caregivers, approximately 85%, are caring for a relative or loved one.
Below is a close look at the reality of informal caregiving in our country, and the impact it creates for all parties involved.
Informal caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care. However, nearly a quarter of this unpaid caregiver population spends 41 hours or more delivering care. For many, the time invested is more substantial than their career, or has grown so significant that it has eliminated the possibility of a career altogether.
Often, these care relationships last an average of four years, with caregivers who invest more than 40 hours a week toward caregiving duties nearly twice as likely to have been in their caregiving role for a decade or more.
According to a report from Gallup-Healthways, informal caregivers spend approximately 13 days each month on general errands. These activities include shopping for supplies, housekeeping, laundry and food preparation. Six days per month are spent on the major activities of daily living – feeding, dressing, grooming and toileting.
The caregiving role also places significant decision-making pressure on the individual. It is reported that caregivers spend, on average, 13 hours per month researching care plans, information regarding a medical condition or managing financial matters for a loved one.
In a 2015 report from AARP, informal caregivers’ support was valued at $470 billion. This value is up from $375 billion just six years prior.
The role of being a family caregiver delivers heavy economic burdens on the caregiver themselves. In a study conducted by Rice University, it was discovered that women who are family caregivers are 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty than non-caregivers. The National Alliance for Caregiving also reports that 47% of informal caregivers have depleted most or all of their savings.
To better understand how the role of caregiver impacts a person’s well-being, the MetLife Mature Market Institute conducted a study, measuring emotional impact. It was discovered that caregivers over the age of 50 years old were 2.5 times more likely to report symptoms of depression.
Further, estimates indicate that 40-70% of family caregivers show significant symptoms of depression, with more than a quarter of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression. The long-term impact is substantial, as the University of California published a report showing that this level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a caregiver’s life expectancy.
Help is Available
Services are available to help reduce the emotional, physical, and financial impact on informal caregivers. Senior Home Companions meets with families to understand how we can help both the care recipient and the family live well. Learn more about how in-home caregiving services from Senior Home Companions can provide the assistance you need to maintain quality, personalized care while also maintaining your own well-being.