AARP Counts 42 Million “Informal” Senior Caregivers

The nation’s 42 million family caregivers provide what’s commonly characterized as “informal” care to seniors who need help with activities of daily living, but in reality it’s anything but, says a new post on the AARP Blog. 

“It’s time to banish the word ‘informal” when referring to the care provided by family members and friends,” writes Lynn Friss Feinberg, a senior strategic policy adverse for the AARP Public Policy Institute. 

Doing so devalues family members’ “essential contributions” and fails to capture the complexity of what they do, often on a regular or even daily basis, and using without pay, she continues. 

Common tasks family caregivers perform include bathing and dressing, paying bills or managing finances, scheduling or accompanying doctors appointments and other outings, managing multiple medications, and even performing wound care.

There’s nothing informal about providing those types of services, or caring for elderly parents and grandparents with Alzheimer’s disease or other escalating—and expensive—care needs, Feinberg writes. 

“By contrast, health and social service professionals (such as physicians, nurses and social workers), as well as direct care workers (such as home care aides), generally are described as ‘formal’ caregivers because they are paid for their services and have training to provide needed care,” says the blog post. “Formal, paid care, however, is the exception, not the rule.” 

Family members, partners, friends, and neighbors are the mainstay of senior caregiving for people needing help with their activities of daily living, says Feinberg, and they deserve to be valued and supported.

“They should be involved as partners in the delivery of both health and long-term care,” she says. “More than 42 million family caregivers help adults in the U.S. today. That’s hardly an informal number.”

Read the full post at AARP. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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