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New Study Finds that Nearly 40 Million Americans Spent Time As Caregivers in 2011

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenJuly 11, 2012

New information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in 2011, 16 percent of the U.S. civilian non-institutional population aged 15 and over provided unpaid eldercare for a loved one.

Caregiving is a tough job. And it turns out that many Americans are spending time as caregivers on a daily basis. In fact, according to a new survey on how Americans spend their time, it was discovered that there are approximately 39.8 million eldercare providers in the U.S., and about 20 percent of these caregivers provide unpaid care daily.

Women, aged 45 to 54, were found to be the most likely to provide care, followed by individuals aged 55 to 64. But even teenagers — most likely grandchildren — also helped care for their aging loved ones.

With the senior population growing exponentially, these numbers are only expected to increase; especially since it’s estimated that by 2025 there will not be enough senior living rooms available to meet the demand of aging boomers. Currently 13 percent of the U.S. population is over age 65 and The Administration on Aging estimates that by 2050 this figure will grow to 20 percent. And memory care is one of the main places there are gaps as more people are living longer and developing Alzheimer’s and dementia — diseases that require more expensive, catered and specialized care.

The Caregiver Demographic

Once a role, the term “caregiver” has begun to match specific demographics. Makes sense, with today’s growing senior population. And while many caregivers are part of the sandwich generation—another funny term that describes a caregiver who takes care of both her own children and her aging loved ones—there are also some other demographics that assume the role, according to the 2011 American Time Use Survey:

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  1. 42% of eldercare providers care for their parents
  2. 4% care for their spouse or unmarried partner
  3. 85% provide care to seniors who do not live with them
  4. 23% care for at least one senior, while providing for at least one child under the age of 18
  5. 20% of eldercare providers care for 3 or more seniors

And one of the most staggering numbers is that 30% of eldercare providers have provided care for three or more years!

Where Do We Go From Here?

On a national level, America is on a mission to cure Alzheimer’s by 2025, not to mention there are many initiatives currently in practice to provide affordable medical care and benefits to the senior population. But on a family level, caregiving really can take a toll. It’s important for the caregiver to take some much-needed time to nourish his/her own mind and body to keep up with the caregiving role. For the almost 40 million caregivers in the U.S., a little caregiving education is important. Families can also get some great insight from Joan Lunden, A Place for Mom’s spokesperson and former Good Morning America host, who plays an active role in educating caregivers.

Read “Why Memory Care is the Fastest Growing Segment of Senior Care” to get a glance at American’s geriatric future.

America still has time for proactive planning for the impending “Silver Tsunami”. What do you think we should do to prepare for the aging baby boomer population? Share your comments below.

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Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen
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