Caregiver & Elder Care News
Nearly Half of Senior Citizens in America Need Help with Daily Routines
Growing need for improved community-based services
and support for older Americans and their caregivers
4, 2014 - Nearly half of Americans age 65 and older, totaling about 18
million people, require help with routine daily activities like bathing,
handling medications or meals. A new study in Milbank Quarterly reveals
a growing need for improved services and support for older Americans,
their spouses, their children and other "informal caregivers."
While 51 percent of older Americans in the study
reported no difficulty with routine tasks, "29 percent reported
receiving help with taking care of themselves or getting around in the
previous month," said co-author Vicki A. Freedman, Ph.D., a research
professor with the Institute for Social Research at the University of
"Another 20 percent reported that they had
difficulty carrying out these activities on their own."
The researchers examined 2011 data from the
National Health and Aging Trends Study gathered during two-hour,
in-person interviews with more than 7,500 Medicare recipients or a
proxy, as well as information provided by staff members about nearly 500
nursing home residents.
For older adults who received help in a private
home or in settings like assisted living, the average number of hours of
care was 200 per month. Informal caregivers, mainly spouses and
children, provided most of that help. About three in ten older adults
who received assistance supplemented this informal care with paid help.
"About one in three people who reported help or
difficulty with daily activities also reported having at least one
adverse consequence related to having an unmet need for help in the
month prior to the interview," noted co-author Brenda C. Spillman,
Ph.D., a senior fellow with the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center.
Adverse consequences included staying in bed, being
unable to leave the house, not eating and misusing medications.
Models that effectively coordinate health and
supportive services will become even more important as a rising number
of older Americans with disabilities receive care in settings other than
Spillman added, "The dominant role of informal
caregivers, including their part in health care and navigating the
health care system, highlights the value of current efforts to improve
supports for them."
Jennifer Wolff, Ph.D., an associate professor of
health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of
Public Health, stressed that the findings offer policymakers a "more
comprehensive, nuanced profile" of how disabilities affect older people.
The study illuminates how older adults perform daily activities, she
said, and the ways in which they compensate for changing abilities with
assistive devices, paid and unpaid help, and supportive services such as
Wolff observed that the large, rigorous, national
survey analyzed for this study was a "unique data source," which
provided a more detailed profile of the needs of U.S. seniors. The
results, she said, "set the stage for a more comprehensive understanding
of the potential implications of late-life disability for individuals
and for society."
Source: Health Behavior News Service, part of the
Center for Advancing Health,