What Family Caregivers Need

woman helps man from wheelchair to car

Forget National Caregivers Month. Think About What Family Caregivers Need

by Howard Gleckman, JCA immediate past president

Welcome to November, National Family Caregivers Month, one of those Hallmark Card-like designations that politicians grant when they can’t, or won’t, actually act to help people. But instead of getting frustrated over what Congress isn’t doing, it seems like a good opportunity to think about what support those family members need.

Many groups have surveyed family caregivers over the years but a new one commissioned by the Commonwealth Fund is especially instructive. It provides some up-to-date information on what these family members do, why they do it, the burden it places on them, and how they can get critical help.

There are somewhere between 30 million and 50 million family members caring for older adults in the US., depending on how you define family caregiver. Commonwealth settles on 42 million. The largest group are women in their 50s caring for parents, but men are a growing share, and so are young children who care for parents, grandparents, or siblings.

How Caregivers Feel

To learn more about them, Commonwealth ran six focus groups and, last March, surveyed 1,000 people caring for family members or friends living at home.

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