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Caregiver Crisis Fact Sheet

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, October 7th, 2008

by LeAnn Thieman

“There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers… The stories in Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul soothe and nourish family members and professionals devoting themselves to the care of those who are ill or disabled.” – Rosalynn Carter

Over 54 million Americans help care for ailing family members or friends. Millions more selflessly minister to people in daycare, emergency, and community services. While often rewarding, this benevolent care-giving requires tremendous emotional, physical, and spiritual strength.

Facts:

  • Nearly one out of every four US households (23% or 22.4 million households) is involved in caregiving to persons aged 50 and over.
  • One-quarter of the adult population worldwide help care for family members or friends.
  • Nearly 7 million Americans provide long distance care to an elderly loved one.
  • The typical family caregiver is a 46 year old woman who is employed and also spends about 18 hours a week caring for her mother who lives nearby.
  • 75% of caregivers are women
  • The average family caregiver provides 18 hours of care per week; 20% provide “constant care” or 40 hours a week
  • One in three family caregivers cares for 2 or more persons
  • The average age of the caregiver is 46; the average age of the person being cared for is 77.
  • The average out-of-pocket expenses for a family caregiver is $171 per month. Total un-reimbursed monthly expenses for family caregivers is $1.5 billion.
  • The number of children living with grandparents increased 30% from 1990-2000.
  • Women who care for grandchildren have a 55% greater risk of heart disease.
  • Caregivers of someone with a chronic illness have a 63% chance of dying early.
  • 63% of caregivers say depression is their most common emotion.
  • Forty-one percent of caregivers have children, too. Part of the “sandwich generation,” many women will spend more years caring for a parent than they do raising a child.
  • Around 4 million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately 70% of them are cared for at home.
  • Approximately 64% of caregivers of the elderly are employed. They spend an average of 18 to 40 hours per month caregiving.
  • Ninety-two percent of elders are related to their working caregivers. Two-thirds of caregivers work full or part time. Over half make adjustments in their work schedules, i.e. coming in late, taking time off, dropping back to part time or quitting.
  • Of the 7% of workers who care for an elderly parent, grandparent, in-law, relative, friend, or spouse, 56% are women and 44% are men.
  • Nineteen percent of elders live with their working caregivers, 46% live 20 minutes or less from the working caregiver, and 18% live over an hour away.
  • Caregivers who quit or drastically reduced their hours have the highest level of stress, and relatives with the most severe behavioral problems. Leaving the workplace causes an annual income loss of about $20,400 per employee.
  • Family caregivers account for and estimated $257 billion annually in services, if they were paid.
  • The average cost of nursing home care is over $51,000 a year, yet funding is not available to help family members keep their loved one at home.
  • This crisis is of national proportion. Last year congress allocated $125 million to develop new programs for family caregivers.

Problems:

American businesses lose between $11 and $29 billion a year in productivity costs due to caregiving-related work interruptions.

Caregivers often experience troublesome feelings such as:

  • Resentment about demands, real and imagined
  • Worries, especially about the financial impacts of diseases
  • Frustration with health care providers and the patient
  • Exhaustion from balancing caregiving with the competing demands of daily living
  • Depression as life changes drastically
  • Helplessness as the reality and enormity of managing caregiver responsibilities impacts your life
  • Guilt over negative feelings aboout the patient
  • Discomfort with reversal of parent-child roles
  • Anger is common among caregivers and comes from the emotional stress of caring for another.

Caregivers Must Take Care of Themselves

As a result of caregiving and the ongoing stress it incurs, many caregivers develop health problems. There is a powerful and well-documented connection between the body and the mind. Sometimes strong feelings and emotions such as anger, grief, and overwhelming frustration show up as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach aches
  • Dizziness
  • Acid reflux
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Generalized muscle soreness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression

“Why should I care?”

See the Rosalyn Carter quote at the beginning of this fact sheet. This problem escapes no one.

Solutions: (So glad you asked!)

Caregivers can significantly reduce stress by:

  • Paying attention to their own feelings and emotions, and seeking counseling if needed
  • Getting regular checkup and treatments of aches and pains before they turn into something more serious
  • Eating properly, exercising, and getting enough sleep
  • Creating a support network that may include joining an AD support group
  • Easing standards for things such as cleanliness
  • Learning and using relaxation or stress management techniques; such as meditation, visualization, biofeedback and yoga
  • Staying actively involved with friends and hobbies
  • Finding respite care and regularly taking time out for themselves
  • Tapping into community-based resources for support, as well as national resources

Increased funding to support caregivers is a must through nationally funded and community-based programs.

So what’s this have to do with Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul?

Whether they’ve chosen caregiving as a profession or caregiving has chosen them, the caregiver’s daily commitment and sacrifice are true testaments to the human spirit. Currently, the few caregiving books on the market offer “How-to” solutions to ease caregiver burnout, but no other books offer inspirational stories of real-life experiences that will replace possible guilt, resentment and frustration with hope, courage, and strength. The need to be understood is said to be the greatest human need – this book offers that understanding. Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul offers a respite from their responsibilities, bringing uplifting and comforting insights to fill caregivers with renewed hope, courage, and strength.

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