California study: number of family caregivers increasing nationally

More American family members are serving as caregivers for their loved ones than ever before.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center and the California HealthCare Foundation, 39 percent of adults were family caregivers in 2012, up from 30 percent in 2010.

There are multiple reasons for the increase. The number of older adults is increasing, and it will continue to increase as the Baby Boomers continue to age. In addition, many families are foregoing paid caregiving in a sluggish economy.

Modern medicine is extremely adept at keeping people with serious medical conditions alive; at the same time, the older adult population experiences more serious health problems than in the past. All of this means that more family members step in to provide care for their loved ones, who may collectively be sicker than elders in past generations.

According to AARP data from 2012, at least half of caregivers perform complex nursing care at home. Caregivers help with activities of daily living, but they also manage complex medication regimens, take elders to and from medical appointments, and perform nursing or medical tasks prescribed for the elder.

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