AARP Eye Center
Voters Want Lawmakers to Support Family Caregivers Who Face Stresses, Challenges
March 3, 2015 - WASHINGTON, DC - Across political parties, more than seven in ten registered voters age 40 and older say Congress should improve resources for family caregivers who help their parents, spouses, children with disabilities and other loved ones to live independently. This and other findings from a new poll underscore the need for the bipartisan, bicameral Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus launched today by U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and U.S. Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), co-chairs of the ACT Caucus. The Caucus will help bring greater attention to family caregiving and helping people live independently, educate Congress on these issues, and engage legislators on a bipartisan basis to help lead to solutions.
VIDEO: Members of Congress speak about ACT Caucus.
“With the launch of this caucus, we finally have a national spotlight we can shine on the value of—and need to support—family caregivers,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins at the Capitol Hill event launching the ACT Caucus. “The fact that this caucus is both bipartisan and bicameral is significant and encouraging. It sends a message that members of Congress recognize that the issues facing family caregivers and the desire to live independently and with dignity are not bound by politics or ideology.” According to the new poll, more than two thirds of voters say they will be more favorable to members of Congress who want to improve resources for family caregivers.
Over 12 million Americans require assistance with daily tasks—such as eating, dressing, bathing, and transportation—as a result of physical limitations or cognitive impairments. This number is expected to more than double by 2050. At the same time, the vast majority (87%) of older Americans say they want to stay in their current homes and communities as they age.
To help older Americans and people with disabilities achieve the goal of independence, 42 million family caregivers provide over 40 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at an estimated $450 billion in 2009, according to previous research. This amounts to about 90 percent of the care that enables older adults and people with disabilities to avoid living in nursing homes or other institutional settings.
The average family caregiver is a 49-year-old female taking care of a 78-year-old woman and provides 20 hours a week of assistance to their loved one.
AARP Iowa State Director Kent Sovern commented, “Today, more than 540,000 Iowans are family caregivers, and the economic impact of the assistance they provide to their parents, spouses or other loved ones totals about $4.1 billion annually. To put the value of this unpaid care into perspective, it is <#> times greater than the state spent on Medicaid—in a year—for institutional stays, like nursing homes, and services to help people remain at home.”
The new AARP poll finds:
Of registered voters age 40 and older:
• 77% think that Congress should make it a priority to improve resources for family caregivers
• 68% say they would be more favorable to members of Congress who wanted to improve family caregiver resources
Of those currently or previously providing family caregiving:
• 68% report using their own money to provide care for their loved one
• 64% report emotional stress
• 59% find it difficult to take a break from caregiving
• 58% find it difficult to balance job and family
• 53% find it difficult to exercise regularly
Of family caregivers and future family caregivers age 40 and older:
• 88% would find information about caregiver resources helpful
• 85% would find information about respite care helpful.
• 78% would find assistance with chores helpful
• 78% would find help with transportation to medical appointments helpful
• 77% would find general transportation assistance at least somewhat or very helpful.
“It would be a mistake to conclude that the stress, challenges and needs they experience represent caregivers’ full experience,” said Jenkins. “We know they overwhelmingly believe it is important to provide this care for their loved one, and have described this experience with words like love, home, quality, care, and family.” Despite the challenges, family caregivers overwhelmingly (94%) say it is important to provide care for their loved one so they can live independently at home. Even among voters who are not caregivers, the majority (70%) believe this is important.
At the event launching the new ACT Caucus, four family caregivers, Dr. Tobey Partch-Davies of New Hampshire, Don Schierling of Colorado, Chris Courington of Tennessee, and Marianita Gorman of New Mexico told of the challenges they faced caring for loved ones.
Sovern concluded, “Complex caregiving for families really is the new normal. If you’re not helping your loved one to live independently now, you have in the past, will in the future—or you will need care yourself.”
AARP commissioned the telephone survey of 1,200 registered voters nationwide, age 40 and older, to learn about their experiences with family caregiving. The survey data highlights results from residents interviewed between February 13th and February 19th, 2015. The data in the survey report was weighted by age and gender to reflect the United States registered voter population age 40 and older. The survey included both cell phones and landlines. The survey has a margin of error of +/-2.9 percent. A copy of the survey report is available at http://www.aarp.org/research/topics/care/info-2015/national-survey-family-caregivers.html