According to a recent study, there are many U.S. caregivers currently offering unpaid medical help and other services to those closest to them at the expense of their own mental and physical health, as well as finances.
Approximately 14.7 million family caregivers across the country care for 7.7 million older adults, allowing them to live within the community, versus institutions such as seniors’ homes. As such, family members are helping these seniors with day-to-day routines such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Many also help with medical needs, like booking doctor’s appointments, giving injections, and cleaning up small wounds.
Lead author of the study, Jennifer Wolff, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore states that the issue is widespread. She goes on to note that there is no easy solution when it comes to managing the complex needs associated with care. It is a result of a complicated and uneven health care and long-term care system, which more often than not, families are navigating through without being fully prepared.
Rueters reports that Wolff and her team reviewed data from two surveys conducted in 2011, where over 1,100 elderly adults and 1,700 caregivers participated. Based on this information, the study team projected 6.5 million unpaid and family caregivers offered considerable aid with medical support, while another 4.4 million provided some assistance, and 3.8 million didn’t take care of health care.
Another interesting thing to note, was the health conditions of the elderly, that these caregivers were supporting. Forty-six percent of caregivers surveyed were assisting a senior who had dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Another 34 percent within the survey were helping a senior with disability.
The study also found that approximately half of family caregivers offered substantial aid around medical support; spending about 28 hours a week helping elderly family members.
However, this proved to take quite the toll on caregivers. The survey revealed that caregivers who offered considerable help with care of their loved ones were 79 percent likelier to has emotional difficulty, twice as likely to have their own physical problems, as well deal with financial issues, versus those who didn’t provide medical support. They were also more five times likelier to miss out on things within their own lives, and three times likelier to be less productive at work.
The team noted, that a limitation of the research is that the data from the surveys could not prove that providing medical help to seniors was the direct cause of a caregiver’s hardships. The team also added that the measurement of how involved caregivers were in health activities was limited to the organization of medications, and general care.
However, the study reveals the compounding evidence that supports the financial, emotional, and physical toll that is taken on family caregivers; as they dedicate so much effort, work, and time to assist the seniors that are close to them in their lives.