Caregiving Crisis: As Boomers Age Available Caregivers Decline

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THE AARP RECENTLY PUBLISHED a blockbuster report, “The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap: A Look at Future Declines in the Availability of Family Caregivers.”

As the report points out, family members provide the vast majority of long-term services and caregiving support. This is unlikely to change, but what is rapidly changing is the ratio of potential caregivers aged 46-64 for people aged 80 and over.

In 2010 there were 7 potential caregivers for each person in the “high-risk years” of 80-plus. By 2030 this ratio will decline sharply to 4-to-1 and by 2050, 3-1.

The implications are enormous.

Here are some of the things we learned from reading the full report:

  • More than 2/3 of Americans believe they will be able to rely on family members for-long terms services and support, but this belief collides with the reality of “dramatically shrinking availability of family caregivers.”
  • Increasingly family caregivers find themselves providing medical and nursing tasks (such as wound care and administering injections) that were once provided by hospitals, nursing homes or home care providers.
  • The “average” family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and spends about 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to her mother for nearly 5 years.
  • 2/3 of all family caregivers are female. More than 8-in-10 are caring for a relative or friend aged 50 or over.
  • 55.8 percent of people aged 80 and older have a severe disability.
  • 2010-to-2020 is a period of transition as boomers become old and the caregiver ratio declines.
  • 2030-to-2050 all remaining boomers will enter the high-risk 80-plus category and the caregiver ratio will keep declining.
  • The population of Americans between 45-64 is projected to increase by only 1 percent from 2010-to-2030 while the 80-plus population is projected to increase “a whopping 79 percent.”
  • The pace of the decline of available caregivers will accelerate during the 2020s.
  • Only 11.6 percent of women 80-84 were childless in 2010, but that will increase to 16 percent by 2030. (Thus, fewer women will have children to turn to when they need care.)
  • The number of “frail older people” 65-plus is projected to increase from 11 million in 2010 to 18 million in 2030.
  • The 80-plus populations is projected to increase by 44 percent between 2030 and 2040.
  • One in three baby boomers are currently unmarried, an increase of 50 percent since 1980.
  • 1.2 million people aged 65 or older will live alone and have no living children or siblings in 2020.

What is clear from this report is that we are going from a period of a slow decline in the availability of family caregiving support to a free fall.

Among it’s conclusions, the AARP suggests “the United States needs a comprehensive person and family centered long-term services and support policy that would better serve the needs of older persons with disabilities, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and promote greater efficiencies in public spending.”

Can we afford to do this you may ask? Can we afford not to?

You can read and or download a PDF version of the AARP report by clicking on this link.

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