Understanding how societies tend to care for its aging populations, especially those with chronic health problems, is important for determining how successfully the needs of disabled seniors and older Americans are being met. One of the trends in aging that a recent research letter has highlighted is that more seniors are opting for home health care as opposed to assisted living facilities or nursing homes. This means that more senior care is being rendered by friends, family, or caregivers.
The research in question comes from the University of Michigan, which was spurred by the fact that the number of older adults living with chronic disease in America has been increasing for some time due to the aging population. Since there is a growing demand for caregivers, it was felt that looking at trends in how care was being found for disabled seniors would be an appropriate line of inquiry.
Data was obtained from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study and provided information on 5,198 individuals and 39,060 observations of adults with one or more forms of impairment from 1998 to 2012. It was noted that the rate of caregiver help being used rose from 42% in 1998 to just under 50% in 2012. Care was also being rendered by spouses, children, other family members, and paid caregivers in increasing amounts every two years (the time between data collections).
The findings only cover trends in Michigan and it is not known how consistent the findings would be if extended across other states or the country as a whole. The study is also not capable of determining the main drivers behind the caregiver decisions (geography, finances, service availability, etc.). What it does show, however, is that there is an increasing reliance on home caregivers, professional or not, and that more work is needed to assess the sorts of strains and stresses this rise in demand is placing on caregivers, paid and unpaid alike as they care for disabled seniors suffering from chronic health problems.
Ankuda, C., “Trends in Caregiving Assistance for Home-Dwelling, Functionally Impaired Older Adults in the United States, 1998-2012,” JAMA, 2016; 10.1001/jama.2016.6824.