AARP Finds Toll On Family Caregivers Is ‘Huge’

New research on family caregiving highlights gaps in long-term care services. -SP

July 18, 2011

by Jennifer Ludden

A new study by the AARP estimates that for the more than 40 million Americans caring for an elderly or disabled loved one, the value of their work is $450 billion a year.

That’s a good deal for society. But for the family members doing the work, the study finds they need a lot more help.

Take Cymando Henley, 36, whose mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was starting college. She now must use a wheelchair, and Henley has been taking care of her for nearly two decades.

Henley does have help. Montgomery County, Maryland, where they live, and the MS Society pay for a combined 35 hours of home health aides each week — though that’s threatened by budget cuts.

But every day, Henley must help his mom in and out of bed and onto the toilet. He even rolls her over in the middle of the night if she becomes uncomfortable. Care like this from a professional can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. But Henley does it for free, and it’s on top of his full-time job. The AARP study finds that family members spend an average 20 hours a week providing care. Henley refuses to count, but his mom, Vicki, keeps tab.

“Cymando’s care for me was about 40 hours a week,” she says.

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