Family Caregivers Increasing in Age, Numbers: How Can Nurses Help?

By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

AJNFamilyCaregiverSupplementLast week, a new report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP detailed the landscape of family caregiving in the United States. The majority (60%) of caregivers remain female (40% are men, a percentage that continues to rise). They average 49 years of age. In most cases, they are caring for a relative (typically, a 69-year-old female). On average, the caregiver spends 24 hours each week helping with daily activities and has been doing so for four years; one-third of caregivers still maintain a full-time job.

An estimated 34.2 million adults provided unpaid care to an adult 50 years or older in the previous 12 months; nearly one in 10 caregivers is 75 years or older—a typical example given in the report was a 79-year-old female caring for a 77-year-old spouse with Alzheimer’s disease, aging issues, or heart disease. Half of caregivers were thrust into caregiving and felt that they had no choice about taking on the responsibility of a loved one’s care; 22% of caregivers feel that their own health has suffered.

To raise awareness of their needs, in recent years AARP has championed the plight of family caregivers, collaborating with government and consumer organizations, and health care professionals. AJN, too, has worked with AARP on several projects to provide nurses with information to support family caregivers, as noted below.

The needs of family caregivers will only increase, according to the data on aging in a report from the U.S. Administration on Aging, A Profile of Older Americans: 2014. According to this report, “The 85+ population is projected to triple from 6 million in 2013 to 14.6 million in 2040.”

This means more people in the “oldest old” category—the group that typically needs assistance with daily living.

We’d like to offer some resources from AJN to help nurses support family caregivers, who often get overlooked by health care professionals and are unprepared for all the caregiving tasks they may need to do (see, for example, Carol Levine’s guest editorial in our September 2008 issue, which details her personal experiences and eloquently describes the problems caregivers often face).

Nurses Supporting Caregivers: Resources from AJN

Our special supplement of articles from our State of the Science: Professional Partners Supporting Family Caregivers project in September, 2008.

Building on the above work, a collection of three articles and videos from our 2011 series, Professional Partners Supporting Diverse Family Caregivers Across Settings.

We hope you find these resources helpful.

Bookmark and Share

About the Author:

Editor-in-chief, AJN

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.