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Thirty Percent of Family Caregivers in California are Arthritis Patients

  [ 296 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 18, 2001

The Family Caregiver Alliance has released a statistical profile of family caregivers served by the state of California’s 11 Caregiver Resource Centers (CRCs). The report reveals intense care demands -- averaging 87 hours per week -- and a population at increased risk for health problems, including a significant number of caregivers with arthritis.

Characteristics of Caregivers

Seventy-six percent of family caregivers are female and over half are either wives (34 percent) or daughters/daughters-in-law (32 percent). Caregivers range in age from 18 to 91 years with an average age of 60.5 years. More than one in five (21 percent) is 75 years of age and older. On average, caregivers have been providing care for nearly five years. Nearly one-half (48 percent) of caregivers have annual household incomes under $30,000 (1998 dollars).

Over half (52 percent) of the family caregivers under the age of 65 -- those most likely to be in the labor force - are, in fact, employed and juggling caregiving and job responsibilities. However, 29 percent of caregivers under the age of 65 say they quit their jobs to give care, and another 25 percent reduced their work hours. Caregivers report providing an average of 87 hours of care a week, yet they only receive an average of 11 hours of help a week in caregiving from their own family and friends.

Research has shown that prolonged caregiving has negative effects on the emotional and physical health of caregivers. The caregivers assessed by California's CRCs are at risk for serious emotional and physical health problems of their own. Two-thirds (66 percent) of the family caregivers report significant health problems and 41 percent say their health is now worse than five years ago. Well over half (59 percent) of California caregivers seeking help from a CRC show clinical symptoms of depression, although fewer recognize the signs in themselves. Mental health concerns remain a serious and pervasive problem.

The most common self-reported health problems of family caregivers are:
-- depression (34percent),
-- high blood pressure (32 percent),
-- arthritis (30 percent),
-- heart trouble (20 percent),
-- allergies (14 percent),
-- diabetes (10 percent),
-- cancer (7 percent),
-- asthma (7 percent),
-- stomach trouble (5 percent),
-- stroke (3 percent) and
-- colitis (2 percent).

Characteristics of Care Recipients

Fifty-one percent of care recipients are female, with 83 percent residing at home with their spouse or other relatives. Ranging in age from 18 to 104 years, they average 74.5 years of age. About one in five (21 percent) are 85 years of age and older. One-third (33 percent) of the care recipients are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease; followed by stroke (23 percent); other degenerative brain disease/dementia (21 percent); Parkinson's disease (10 percent); traumatic brain injury (4 percent); Huntington's disease (3 percent); and multiple sclerosis, ALS or brain tumor (2 percent each).

In addition to complex care needs caused by memory and behavior problems, over half (55 percent) of the care recipients have difficulty in carrying out three or more activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) report difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living (e.g., preparing meals, using the telephone, managing money, taking medications).

Family Caregiver Alliance, in its role as Statewide Resources Consultant to the California Department of Mental Health, maintains a database on California family caregivers of adults with cognitive impairment. This database generates information on the need for and impact of caregiver support services; identifies trends and directions for service development; and assists in laying a foundation for new policy initiatives. It provides a profile of caregivers of loved ones with intense care needs - individuals with Alzheimer's disease, stroke, Parkinson's, and other disorders. The sample consisted of 3,440 California caregivers who completed a comprehensive in-home assessment by one of the state's 11 Caregiver Resource Centers in 1999.

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