Caregiving takes toll on 42 million Americans

The number of Americans who act as caregivers for infirm loved ones continues to grow, as do the emotional, financial and medical burdens these family caregivers carry as a result. But experts said the health care system — physicians, nurses, hospitals and manufacturers of medical equipment used at home — can help make family caregivers’ unpaid work a little easier to bear.

The newest figures, released in July by AARP, show that about 42.1 million Americans in 2009 regularly helped an adult loved one with tasks such as cooking, bathing, paying bills, visiting physicians and managing medications. That number, which equals about one in seven Americans, rose 24% from 2007.

“Being a caregiver is becoming a fact of life — we call it the new normal,” said Susan C. Reinhard, PhD, co-author of the AARP report. “If we were to try to hire people to do all the things that all the family caregivers do, it would equal $450 billion a year.”

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