October 4, 2010

AARP: LTC Provided Primarily by Family Members

Reliance on technology, family care increased

Increasingly, seniors are relying on technology over human assistance to manage daily activities, a September report by the AARP found. AARP analyzed data from the National Long-Term Care Survey collected from 1984 to 2004 to identify trends in caregiving.

According to the report, the number of disabled Americans over 65 who use "assistive equipment" instead of a caregiver increased 155% between 1984 and 2004, and exceeds the number of people living in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. People who needed help with just one or two ADLs were more likely to do so with assistive technology only (60%).

While seniors' reliance on technology is increasing, among those who utilize human help, family members are a major source of care. In 2004, 90% of older people received family-provided care, either alone or in addition to paid care. After climbing between 1984 and 1994, the number of people receiving supplemental formal care had fallen to the 1984 level of 28%. The percentage of people who received formal care only, meanwhile, nearly doubled from 1984 to 2004.

People who lived in residential care facilities were the most likely to receive both paid and family care (81%), followed by those with no spouse or children (44%), and those who needed help with five or six activities of daily living (42%).

In 1994 and 2004, people who needed help with three or more ADLs received an average 43 hours per week of family care. The average number of hours of formal care fell from 39.5 hours per week to 33.

The report found gender disparities among caregivers persist. Nearly two-thirds of caregiving children and 57% of caregiving spouses are women.

Over half of people relying on formal care paid for it out of their own pockets. Most payments went toward "unskilled" help with daily activities. From 1999 to 2004, Medicare's share as a source of payment for formal care fell from 28% to 25%. Medicaid as a payment source, however, increased slightly from 15% in 1999 to 17% in 2004.

Just 9% of care recipients relied on private insurance to fund long-term care, an increase of only 1 percentage point between 1999 and 2004.

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