Caregivers provide assistance to other people who because of physical disability, chronic illness or cognitive impairment are unable to perform certain activities on their own. So-called informal care can be offered by family members or friends, often in a home setting. Or paid or volunteer professional care, so-called formal care, can be obtained at home, in the community or from institutions such as nursing facilities or government institutions.
Roughly, 11.1 million Americans of all ages are receiving formal or informal care at any given time. This represents about 4% of the population and is comprised of about 9.5 million receiving care at home or in the community and another 1.6 million residing in nursing or intermediate care facilities. About 25.8 million family caregivers provide personal assistance to individuals 18 years or older who have a disability or chronic illness. And nearly one out of every four households (22.4 million households) is involved in giving care to persons aged 50 or older. About 43% of those receiving care are under the age of 65 and are evenly spread between ages 18 to 64. Children under 18 and receiving assistance because of disability are often characterized under different criteria of caregiving.
Sometimes human caregivers can be replaced or assisted by mechanical devices. These might include special computer systems for communication, special locomotion equipment, remote vital sign monitoring devices or remote oversight monitoring. Continued technology advances may help relieve the time commitment of human caregivers.
Most of the care provided to an older adult is from an informal network of family and friends, rather than a paid or formal network. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP reported in 2004 that the estimated number of caregivers in the US was 44 million people. That translates into nearly 21% of all US households providing care for an adult family member. Â Many of these people work part-time or full-time hours and may also still have child-rearing responsibilities on top of this. The people in this group have come to be known as the “sandwich generation”, because they are often “sandwiched” in between taking care of the kids and mom and/or dad as well. The costs of this are far reaching from emotional, physical and of course financial.
The cost to US businesses from this is very significant, almost 34 billion annually.Â This happens from workers having to leave work early, take time off,Â and deal with interruptions which allÂ leads to lessÂ productivity which effects on the bottom line.Â Employers are doing what they can to help their employees with these issues more than ever. This assistance includes help such as resource and referral programs which include local services like home care which may include hourly help or live in help. If an employee is having an issue they can go to their employee or HR department and asked to be referred to a home care agency. There are also workshops and support groups as well as long-term care insurance coverage.
This trend is going to continue for several decades with people living longer due to better medicine and more healthy lifestyles.