Caregiver profiles – another way to slice the caregiving pie

Primary source : Amanda Toler Woodward, October 6, 2015

In previous posts I looked at cross country comparisons of caregivers, where caregivers get information about providing care, and gender differences in caregivers. These last two used data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Policy Institute Caregiving in the U.S. 2009.

In this post, I share some information from the 2015 version of this report, in particular similarities and differences across different types of caregivers broken out by the report authors into a series of caregiver profiles.

The picture perhaps most of us have when we think about caregivers is profiled as The Typical Caregiver. This is a 49-year old woman who is caring for a 60-year old female relative. She spends 24.4 hours a week on average providing care like bathing, dressing, running errands, and managing finances. She also helps with medical or nursing tasks like dressing wounds, giving injections, and managing medications. She is usually employed, married or living with a partner, and in decent health. She has graduated from high school and had some college courses, but not completed a degree. She does not have help from other unpaid or paid caregivers. She reports little to no physical strain or financial strain from caregiving and moderate emotional stress.

The Higher-Hour Caregiver is similar to the typical caregiver in many ways although both she and her care recipient are older. As the name implies, she provides more care – on average 62.2 hours/week. She provides more types of care as well including advocating for the care recipient, monitoring the care recipient’s condition and adjusting care as needed, and communicating with care professionals. She is less likely to be employed than the typical caregiver and the care recipient usually lives with her. Not surprisingly, this caregiver experiences more physical and emotional stress than the typical caregiver.

About 7% of caregivers are aged 75 and older is caring for a spouse, sibling, or adult child. She has more education than typical or higher-hour caregivers. She feels she has little choice in providing care, but experiences little to no physical or financial strain and only moderate emotional stress.

A growing category is The Millenial Caregiver (about 25% of caregivers in this sample). Unlike other types of caregivers, the Millenial is equally like to be male or female. He is 27 years old and cares for a 59.6 year old female relative who is most often a parent or grandparent. In fact, grandchildren caring for grandparents – either as a primary caregiver or assisting someone else – is increasing.  This caregiver is more likely than others to report that their loved one has an emotion or mental health condition that requires care, not just a physical illness. He has taken some college courses, but not finished a degree and tends to have a lower household income than the national median. He is more likely than other types of caregivers to have help from other unpaid and paid caregivers.

The 2015 data also highlights racial and ethnic differences in caregiving. The African American/Black Caregiver (13% of sample) is younger than the typical caregiver and provides care for more hours a week. She is employed, not married, and has some college, but no degree. Her HH income is below the national median as well as the median for the average caregiver across all backgrounds. However, she reports no physical or financial strain, and only moderate to low emotional stress. The Hispanic/Latino Caregiver (17%) is similar although she spends more hours per week providing care than the African American/Black Caregiver and has less education – a high school degree or less. Unlike many of the other caregivers profiled, the Asian American/Pacific Islander Caregiver (6%) has help from other unpaid caregivers and has more education (a Bachelor’s degree or higher).

Finally, the Male Caregiver  (40% of all caregivers) is similar to the typical caregiver in many ways except that he has other unpaid caregivers to help him. He is employed and works more hours than other employed caregivers and has a higher household income.

So, just as with international comparisons, there are interesting similarities and differences across caregivers in the U.S. that have implications for policies and services. More on those another day.

In the meantime, do you see yourself or someone you know in these profiles? If not, what’s different?  This inquiring academic wants to know.

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Amanda Toler Woodward
Amanda Toler Woodward is an associate professor in the MSU School of Social Work. Her goal is to share reflections on a wide range of topics related to aging research, social work, academia, and whatever else catches her fancy.
Amanda Toler Woodward

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