Caregiver Assistance Increases Among Home-Dwelling Functionally Disabled Older Adults

In a study appearing in the July 12 issue of JAMA, Claire K. Ankuda, M.D., M.P.H., and Deborah A. Levine, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, examined trends in caregiving for home-dwelling older adults with functional disability.
As more people in the United States age with chronic disease, needs for caregiving increase. Whether the source of caregiving for disabled older adults is changing is unknown. This study used data from the nationally representative U.S. Health and Retirement Study, and included home-dwelling adults 55 years and older with 1 or more impairments in activities of daily living or instrumental activities of daily living (ADL/IADLs) who were surveyed between 1998 and 2012.
There were 5,198 individuals and 39,060 observations of home-dwelling older adults with 1 or more impairments. The researchers found that individuals increasingly reported caregiver help, from 42 percent in 1998 to 50 percent in 2012. Assistance was increasingly provided by spouses, children, other family, and paid caregivers over each 2-year period.
The greatest increase in caregiving was among those with fewer ADL and IADL impairments. “Although this is likely in part because those with more impairments have already sought caregivers, it may also be that more adults with 1 or 2 impairments are aging in their communities as opposed to nursing homes,” the authors write.
“Further work is needed to assess the balance between functional needs in the population and capacity for caregiver support, as well as the burden on unpaid caregivers.”