A national profile of family and unpaid caregivers who assist older adults with health care activities

Jennifer Wolff, Brenda C. Spillman, Vicki A. Freedman, Judith D. Kasper

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IMPORTANCE: Family and unpaid caregivers commonly help older adults who are at high risk for poorly coordinated care. OBJECTIVE: To examine how caregivers' involvement in older adults' health care activities relates to caregiving responsibilities, supportive services use, and caregiving-related effects. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A total of 1739 family and unpaid caregivers of 1171 community-dwelling older adults with disabilities who participated in the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) and National Study of Caregiving (NSOC). MAINOUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Caregiving-related effects, including emotional, physical, and financial difficulty; participation restrictions in valued activities; and work productivity loss. EXPOSURES: Caregivers assisting older adults who provide substantial, some, or no help with health care, defined by coordinating care and managing medications (help with both, either, or neither activity, respectively). RESULTS: Based on NHATS and NSOC responses from 1739 family and unpaid caregivers of 1171 older adults with disabilities, weighted estimates were produced that accounted for the sampling designs of each survey. From these weighted estimates, 14.7 million caregivers assisting 7.7 million older adults, 6.5 million (44.1%) provided substantial help, 4.4 million (29.8%) provided some help, and 3.8 million (26.1%) provided no help with health care. Almost half (45.5%) of the caregivers providing substantial help with health care assisted an older adult with dementia. Caregivers providing substantial help with health care provided more hours of assistance per week than caregivers providing some or no help (28.1 vs 15.1 and 8.3 hours, P

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-379
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Internal Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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