• Embargoed Release for April 6, 2004, 12:01 a.m.
  • Contact: Barbara Foelber or Carol Shirley (202) 434-2560
  • National Alliance for Caregiving (301) 718-8444
  • Providing Care for Another Adult a Second Job for Many,
  • National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP Study Shows

There are far more Americans holding “second jobs” as family caregivers than either employers, or the federal government are aware of – and this “second job” could pose long-term problems for both.

A survey conducted for the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, funded by MetLife Foundation, estimates there are 44.4 million caregivers who provide unpaid care to another adult. Almost six in ten (59%) of these caregivers either work or have worked while providing care. And 62 percent have had to make some adjustments to their work life, from reporting late to work to giving up work entirely.

And, it’s not just women, as some people might think. Almost four in ten (39%) caregivers are men, and 60% of them are working full-time. Our study shows a significant proportion of male caregivers. This is just not just an issue for women, but for everyone.

The study entitled “Caregiving in the U.S.” was conducted to update and expand our knowledge about the activities caregivers say they perform, the perceived impact of caregiving on their daily lives, and the unmet needs of this population. Caregivers are people age 18 and older who help another person age 18 and older with at least one of thirteen tasks that caregivers commonly do on an unpaid basis. These activities range from helping another manage finances, shop for groceries, or do housework to helping another get in and out of beds or chairs, get dressed, get to and from the toilet, bathe or shower, or eat.

Gail Hunt, Executive Director for NAC, said the survey sheds light on the needs of the caregiving population. “This study found there is a tremendous need for information and education.” Two-thirds of caregivers say they need help or information on at least one of fourteen activities or issues that caregivers commonly face.

The study indicates that three in ten caregivers carry the heaviest load. These people provide the most hours of care, fulfill the most demanding responsibilities, and are the most affected by their role. This group is more likely to report physical strain, emotional stress, and financial hardship as a result of their caregiving responsibilities compared to caregivers who provide fewer hours of care and perform less demanding tasks. Caregivers who provide the most intense levels of care may find their responsibilities complicated by the fact that they tend to be older and more likely to say their health is only fair compared to other caregivers. Women are more likely to be providing care at the highest levels compared to men.

Nearly eight in ten people who need care are age 50 or older (79%). Caregivers say that older care recipients’ (ages 50+) main problem is aging (15%) and their main health problems are heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or other mental confusion. Caregivers say that younger recipients’ (ages 18-49) main problems are mental illness and depression (23%).

The average length of care is 4.3 years; however, three in ten caregivers report providing care for more than five years. Caregivers age 50 and older – who tend to be caring for mothers and grandmothers – are among the most likely to have provided care for 20 years or more. The survey found that 17 percent of caregivers between the ages of 50-64 years and 18 percent of those over age 65 have been providing care for more than a decade.

“I think people who are dealing with caretaking are unaware that many of their coworkers are dealing with the same thing,” AARP Board Member Jennie Chin Hansen. “This report shows just how common this is.”

“The demands placed on caregivers can be tremendous and clearly take a physical and emotional toll,” says Sibyl Jacobson, president and CEO, MetLife Foundation. “This is an important study because it directs attention to a growing health concern in our country, the well-being of caregivers.”

Some key highlights:

  • A typical caregiver is female, 46 years old, married, has some college experience, and provides care to a woman age 50 or older
  • More than eight in ten (83%) caregivers say they assist relatives
  • A typical care recipient is female, widowed
  • The average age of care recipients ages 18-49 is 33 years
  • The average age of care recipients ages 50+ is 75 years
  • Among caregivers who are caring for someone other than a spouse, the most burdened caregivers say they make an average monthly financial contribution of $437
  • Almost one in five (17%) caregivers say they provide 40 or more hours of care per week
  • The value of family caregiving to society is estimated at $257 billion annually.

The report was funded by MetLife Foundation, and is based on a national survey of 6,139 adults, 1,247 qualified as caregivers. The margin of error for a sample this size is 2.8 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence.

The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) is a non-profit coalition created in 1996 to support family caregivers and the professionals who serve them. . Recognizing that family caregivers provide important societal and financial contributions toward maintaining the well being of older Americans, NAC was created to conduct research, develop national projects, and increase public awareness of the issues of family caregiving. NAC’s founding partners are the American Society on Aging, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. The founding sponsor is Glaxo Wellcome. Current membership includes more than 30 national organizations.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our quarterly publication for Hispanic members; NRTA Live & Learn for National Retired Teachers Association members; and our Web site, www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

MetLife Foundation, established in 1976 by MetLife, has been involved in a variety of healthy aging initiatives addressing issues of caregiving, intergenerational activities, mental fitness, health and wellness programs and volunteer opportunities. Since 1986, the Foundation has supported research on Alzheimer’s disease and recently served as sponsor of The Forgetting, a groundbreaking primetime PBS documentary and educational outreach program on Alzheimer’s disease, which provides resources for caregivers. For more information about MetLife Foundation, visit www.metlife.org

The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP today released “Caregiving in the US,” an update to the 1997 National Caregiver Survey. The research report and supporting documents are available on the Alliance web site at www.caregiving.org. See the press release below for highlights from the survey.