Caregiving is common among Americans, and will become even more so as baby boomers retire and age. We know that many Americans hire in-home caregivers to assist them in taking care of their aging and ill loved ones. Knowing who hires them now can help us establish what works well for caregiving, and what kinds of people tend to avoid hiring a caregiver.
Here are five facts about who hires caregivers, and why.
According to The State of Caregiving: 2015 Report, a survey conducted by AgingCare.com, more men than women seek outside assistance when it comes to caregiving. There are a multitude of possible reasons for this, including the gendered assumption that women are naturally more nurturing and compassionate than men. This leads to the assumption that female family members are more capable of and responsible for taking care of their elders than men, who are sometimes perceived as too rough or insensitive to complete the task. This is complicated by the fact that more women are now working, meaning that many caregiving women are also employed full-time, like their male counterparts in decades past. Regardless of why, however, we know that men are more likely to seek in-home assistance with a loved one's care.
According to that same survey, dementia and Alzheimer's are at the top of the list of what most people consider health concerns that would necessitate caregiving. This means that the families and loved ones of those experiencing dementia and Alzheimer's Disease are more likely to need and hire professional caregivers, either in-home or in a separate facility. This likely comes from the scary nature of dementia, which often puts loved ones at risk due to agitation, confusion, memory loss, and speech difficulties on the part of the patient. Working non-professional caregivers need a way to ensure that their loved one will not get lost walking the neighborhood or forget that they can no longer see well enough to drive and end up badly hurt. That is where many professionals step in and help.
After dementia, the triggers for hiring caregivers include the loved senior becoming more frail, hard of hearing, and less mobile than in the past.
Most adult child caregivers who care for their aging parents are between 50 and 70 years old. They are often married and have children (though most of the time they do not have children at home, according to Caregiving.com's 2014 Annual Family Caregiver Survey results. They are usually still employed. This means that they are more likely to hire someone than an unmarried or childless young person. It also means that they are planning for their own retirement, leaving less money to pay out of pocket for caregiving. However, as the American population ages, more young people will be engaged in the act of caregiving because more people will need care, according to Margaret B. Neal and Donna L. Wagner's report on working caregivers.
A person who is taking care of an aging spouse is much less likely to bring in a professional to assist with caregiving. Some 61% of spouses do not hire home care. True to earlier cited figures of the State of Caregiving 2015 Report, fewer wives than husbands acquire outside help in caregiving and only do so if it is unavoidable. However, if spouses have discussed the financial nature of care, they are more likely to find professional help, largely because it is part of the plan and can be paid for. This also means that adult children are more likely than spouses to hire a professional caregiver, though generally because of dire need as opposed to convenience.
Guilt is a frequent, common feeling amongst nonprofessional caregivers, across all categories. They often feel as if they could or should do more, despite the amount of time, energy, and money they give to their loved one. One way that professionals can help combat this guilt is to comfort family members who feel that they fall short or cannot make everything easier for their loved one. The guilt may also extend to other relationships--not enough time spent with children, friends, or on work-related tasks because of caregiving. By allowing space to discuss this and to make plans for caring for themselves, professional caregivers can soothe anxieties and prevent emotional burnout in family caregivers.
Family caregivers spend inadequate time caring for themselves. According to Caregiving.com's 2014 Annual Family Caregiver Survey, 70% of respondents said that they do not nurture their own health and wellbeing needs (including medical, dental, and emotional) because something has to give when caring for an aged loved one. They sacrifice themselves for the sake of their loved one. Noble as this is, it is also a recipe for burnout, so family caregivers should consider hiring professional caregivers at least so they have time to take care of themselves.
Botek, Anne-Marie. The State of Caregiving: 2015 Report. Aging Care.com. Available at https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/state-of-caregiving-2015-report-177710.htm. Retrieved 1/22/2016.
Brown, Denise M. 2014 Annual Family Caregiver Survey Results. Caregiving.com. Available at http://www.caregiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2014_Survey.pdf. Retrieved 1/22/2016.
Neal, Margaret B., & Wagner, Donna L. (2001). Working Caregivers: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for the Aging Network. National Family Caregiver Support Program. Administration on Aging. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/Portals/0/Working%20Caregivers%20-%20Issues%20for%20the%20Aging%20Network%20Fin-Neal-Wagner.pdf. Retrieved 1/22/2016.