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Family Caregivers: Now more than ever

By Mary Krueger - Douglas County Senior Coordinator

“Family caregivers: Now more than ever” is the theme for this year’s National Caregiver Month.

Each year, more Americans are caring for a loved one with a chronic condition or disability or elderly parents.

There are as many as 90 million family caregivers in the U.S. today who typically spend an average of 20 hours a week providing care for a loved one.

There are about seven caregivers for each person age 80-plus. In 2030 this will drop to four caregivers and by 2050, three.

Two out of every 5 adults are family caregivers. The value of the services they provide for “free” is estimated at $375 billion a year. That is almost twice as much as is spent on home care and nursing home services combined.

The typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for her widowed mother who does not live with her. She is married and employed.

About 66 percent of family caregivers are women. More than 37 percent of them have children or grandchildren younger than 18 living with them. They are called the “sandwich generation.”

More than 15 million family caregivers are providing care to more than five million loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. There are nearly 1 million Americans between age 18 and 29 caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

There are also 1.4 million children between ages 8 and 18 providing care for an adult relative.

Stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after caregiving ends. This increases their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.

Seventy-two percent of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55 percent say they skip doctor appointments for themselves.

Sixty-three percent report having poor eating habits and 58 percent indicate they do not get enough exercise.

Family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a life.

The average family caregiver for someone older than age 50 spends $5,531 per year on out-of-pocket caregiving expenses. Forty-seven percent of working caregivers indicate an increase in expenses has caused them to use up all or most of their savings.

If you or a loved one is a family caregiver, know that there is help available. Our Caregiver Support Group meets the second Tuesday of each month at First Lutheran Church in Alexandria from 2 to 4 p.m.

For more information on the group or any caregiving issues, contact Mary at (320) 762-3047.

Happy Thanksgiving!