Caregiving for Older Adults is Becoming a Global Burden

In the next several decades, the number of aging adults is predicted to dramatically increase. Members of the baby boomer generation are in the process of entering their senior years and this means that before long, the number of elderly people will skyrocket. Advances in medical technology and treatment have contributed to this by extending life expectancies. However, just because people will be living longer does not mean that they will be able to maintain their independence. In fact, the number of older adults who will need to be cared for will increase also, placing a huge financial and logistical strain on existing healthcare resources. Many spouses, children, and siblings of aging adults will assume the role of caregivers. But these individuals may also be facing physical and mental issues that come with advanced age.

To get a better idea of the type of burden that caregivers feel today, Victoria Shahly of the Department of health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School conducted a study assessing the various types of pressures and stresses felt by caregivers. By examining these factors in people from different cultures and countries, Shahly hopes to be able to contribute valuable information about caregiving today and the obstacles policy makers, communities and individuals face in the future and how to overcome them. Shahly evaluated over 13,000 surveys from individuals over the age of 50 who were caring for a family member. She asked them about the emotional, financial, and time strains they experienced as a result of taking care of an aging family member with a serious mental or physical condition.

Shahly found that although the majority of the caregivers reported being financially and emotionally strained, the burden was significantly higher for caregivers with lower incomes and those from socioeconomically disadvantaged countries. The lack of health care resources and government assistance could contribute to these results. Also, Shahly found that individuals caring for children or spouses were more emotionally stressed than those caring for siblings or parents. Additionally, women were more vulnerable to the stresses of caregiving than men. These findings underscore the importance of addressing emotional, physical, and financial burdens on older caregivers. Shahly added, “Initiatives supporting older family caregivers are consequently needed, especially in low/lower-middle income countries.”

Shahly, V., et al. (2013). Cross-national differences in the prevalence and correlates of burden among older family caregivers in the World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) surveys. Psychological Medicine 43.4 (2013): 865-79.ProQuest. Web.

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  • esther


    April 2nd, 2013 at 6:54 AM

    I love it that we are now described as a burden. Thanks

  • K.Tee


    April 2nd, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Older population and even children for that matter, are in their non-productive age (economics term). There’s really nothing wrong in calling these groups a burden in a technical sense.

    I was surprised to see that the mean age in Japan was somewhere around 45 years. Seems like we are not too far away. I hope we are able to get our health coverage and insurance issues sorted out and get everybody covered before a large number of individuals start requiring healthcare facilities!

  • Eleanor


    April 3rd, 2013 at 4:31 AM

    When you become a care giver for an older parent or grandparent, yes, it is going to sometimes be a difficult situation. But it is a duty that I would never turn away from. I think back to all of the things that they have given me in my own life and I wonder how I could ever shirk the responsibility that is now mine?

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