Caregivers In The News

On Thursday, The New York Times' published a brilliant article in The Upshot section by physician Dhruv Khullar, M.D., M.R.P. 

The write-up spawned from Khullar's own experience -- witnessing his patient's daughter juggle the responsibilities of her career, children, and father suffering from dementia. Khullar notes that while that taking care of a loved one can inexplicably enrich the life of the caregiver, a number of studies have linked family caregiving to financial, mental, and emotional stress.

There are some 40 million Americans like my patient’s daughter. Every day, they help a parent, grandparent, relative or neighbor with basic needs: dressing, bathing, cooking, medications or transportation. Often, they do some or all of this while working, parenting, or both. And we — as doctors, employers, friends and extended family — aren’t doing enough to help them.

According to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, the typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for an older relative — but nearly a quarter of caregivers are now millennials and are equally likely to be male or female. About one-third of caregivers have a full-time job, and 25 percent work part time. A third provide more than 21 hours of care per week. Family caregivers are, of course, generally unpaid, but the economic value of their care is estimated at $470 billion a year — roughly the annual American spending on Medicaid.

A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine suggests that society’s reliance on this “work force” — largely taken for granted — is unsustainable. While the demand for caregivers is growing because of longer life expectancies and more complex medical care, the supply is shrinking, a result of declining marriage rates, smaller family sizes and greater geographic separation. In 2015, there were seven potential family caregivers for every person over 80. By 2030, this ratio is expected to be four-to-one, and by 2050, there will be fewer than three potential caregivers for every older American.

This volunteer army is put at great financial risk. Sixty percent of those caring for older family members report having to reduce the number of hours they work, take a leave of absence or make other career changes. Half say they’ve gotten into work late, or had to leave early. One in five report significant financial strain. Family caregivers over 50 who leave the work force lose, on average, more than $300,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetimes.
— Dhruv Kullar, M.D., M.R.P., (Source: New York Times)

Please find five minutes to give this a full-read. Learn about the ways basic training, respite programs, counseling, and potential policy changes could accentuate the benefits of looking after our elders, without its heavy burden. 

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