Caregiving Affects Health of Three-Quarters of Caregivers, According to National Survey

Greatly expanded FamilyDoctor.org consumer health website helps reduce the burden

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Contact:
Janelle Davis
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 5222
jdavis@aafp.org

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Nearly three out of four Americans who provide care for a family member or friend who is disabled, elderly or has physical or mental limitations said caregiving had at least some impact on their health, and six in 10 said caregiving caused them to lose sleep sometimes, according to a recent national survey.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Academy of Family Physicians in March 2012, looked at both the impact of caregiving and caregivers’ need for credible information about their family members’ changing health needs and how to balance caregiving with other responsibilities(familydoctor.org). Among its findings:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) of caregivers felt one or more stressors associated with caregiving.
  • Nearly three out of four (72 percent) of caregivers said caregiving had at least some impact on their health.
  • Six in 10 (60 percent) caregivers said caregiving caused them to lose sleep at least sometimes.
  • Slightly more than half (52 percent) said their caregiving responsibilities caused them to neglect their other responsibilities such as meeting their own health needs, running errands, caring for their home, and spending time with other family and friends at least sometimes

The challenge will grow with time. As the number of people age 65 and older increases, demand for caregiving will rise. Today, 43.5 million Americans provide care for someone age 50 and older, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. The Alzheimer’s Association’s 2012 Facts and Figures report that 15.2 million Americans care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease(familydoctor.org) or other dementia(familydoctor.org).

Moreover, caregivers indicated they sought out information about their loved one’s health and about balancing caregiving with other responsibilities.

  • Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of caregivers who manage the health of those they provide care for sought information from their physician or health care provider when they had questions about the health of those they care for. Of those, nearly all (96 percent) sought information from a primary care physician.
  • More than half (57 percent) sought information on the Internet.
  • More than half (56 percent) of caregivers felt there was no single online resource for highly credible health information on caregiving.
  • More than half (58 percent) of caregivers said they were frustrated by having to go to multiple resources when they’re trying to find information on a specific health issue.

The findings demonstrate that caregivers need a comprehensive clearinghouse of information, such as FamilyDoctor.org, that addresses health conditions and activities of daily living that can be a challenge for 40.4 million elderly Americans and those who care for them, according to Glen Stream, MD, MBI, president of the AAFP.

“This age of instant information is a boon and a challenge for caregivers,” Stream said. “Caregiving can be a challenge as new health issues develop and a loved one’s needs change. Family physicians are the place to start for information about a loved one’s health, but millions of Americans turn to online sources to learn — for example — how to keep the home environment safe or how to make sure an elderly loved one is eating right. That’s where FamilyDoctor.org comes in. It’s a resource that complements the patient-centered medical home, where care is coordinated across all settings, from the doctor’s office to hospitals to nursing homes and many other services that make up our health care system.”

Understanding caregivers’ need for timely and practical information, the AAFP’s consumer health website, FamilyDoctor.org, has significantly expanded information on its Seniors page(familydoctor.org). The enhanced page added information about health care issues affecting the elderly such as preventive health for seniors, balancing work and caregiving, helping older adults deal with life-changing events, tips for keeping older adults safe, preventing falls in the home, improving communication with a relative with dementia, and depression in older adults.

“The information on FamilyDoctor.org provides a one-stop clearinghouse for a wealth of information, whether it’s about health and aging, meeting everyday challenges of providing care to older loved ones, or ensuring that both seniors and their caregivers have a good quality of life,” Stream said.

Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of AAFP from March 5-7, 2012 among 2,238 adults age 18+, of whom 448 are seniors (aged 65+) and 241 are caregivers. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact jdavis@aafp.org.

# # #