A third of baby boomers are moonlighting as "caregivers," caring for elders or other loved ones who are unable to get by on their own, according to a report.
Averaging 20 hours a week, the job description covers everything from bathing to balancing a checkbook - responsibilities often squeezed in between regular full-time jobs and tending to their own children living at home.
“Now in addition to family and work, boomers have added caregiving, the equivalent of a part time job, to their responsibilities,” said Elinor Ginzler, AARP's senior vice president of livable communities.
AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving sponsored the study, which was funded by MetLife Foundation and based on interviews with nearly 1,500 caregivers. As part of the study, the three groups are recommending more care be offered to the caregiver themselves, with greater access to information resources, emergency response devices, transportation assistance and respite services.
That's significant, considering the holidays can multiply the stress caregivers feel. Many become overwhelmed in their efforts to maintain family and holiday traditions while caring for a loved one.
“Their work, health and time with family and friends already bear some of the cost for this amped-up juggling act," Ginzler said. "Caregivers need help and information to continue to keep all the balls in the air and assure that they don’t end up paying further with their own retirement security.”
Women on Duty
In general, caregiving is still mostly a job held by women, with 66 percent reporting for duty. The average age of the female caregiver is 48 years old, and she mainly cares for a relative - most often a parent. The stint lasts an average of 4.6 years.
One in seven caregivers also provides care, over and above regular parenting, to a child with special needs.
The main reasons older people need care are well known: old age, Alzheimer’s disease, mental/emotional illness, cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The list of illnesses and problems for which children need care is a bit different. It is led by ADD/ADHD, autism, mental/emotional illness and developmental delay/mental retardation. As a result, caregivers of children often provide the most time-intensive care.
That's not to say that boomers caring for elderly parents have it easy. Adult children bear the brunt in the form of demands on their time, energy and financial resources.
Caregivers are reaching out for more help than they were five years ago. That's important since one in six caregivers report that the job has hurt their health status.
Fewer caregivers and their recipients are calling upon paid help, which could be due to the recession, the study added. In fact, many caregivers increasingly rely on other caregivers for support. While that peer support is effective, much work still needs to be done to offer comprehensive assistance as the US population ages.
“More and more people who are 65-plus are providing care to both children and adults,” said Gail Hunt, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Caregiving. “The shift to an older population of caregivers points to a real need for assistance for these individuals from family, friends, employers and social service programs."