Baby Boomer Caregivers Report Poor Health
Caregivers provide much of the care or assistance for people with health problems or disabilities living in the community. They help family members or friends with activities important for daily living such as bathing and dressing, paying bills, shopping, and running errands. Caregiving can also include emotional support or help with managing a chronic disease or disability. This can happen in the caregiver’s home, the care recipient’s home, or long distance.
But caregiving can come at a cost to health. A CDC study found that baby boomers who are caregivers have more chronic disease, more disability, and lower self-rated health compared to baby boomers who are not caregivers. Baby boomers are people born between 1946 to 1964, and they make up 38.5% of all caregivers in the United States, according to the study.
Compared with non-caregivers, baby boomer caregivers were more likely to have:
- Arthritis (44%).
- Asthma (11%).
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (11.2%).
- One or more chronic health conditions (63%).
In addition to chronic conditions, 15% of baby boomer caregivers also reported frequent mental distress.1 Frequent mental distress is defined as having 14 days or more of poor mental health in the past month.
The study found that over half of all baby boomers are employed. If you are a caregiver, your life and work can be affected in many ways because of the care you give. Competing priorities can be hard on your physical and emotional health, despite the great sense of reward you may feel.
How to Get the Help You Need
To continue being the best caregiver that you can be, you need to take care of yourself. One way you can do that is to make sure you have consistent breaks from your caregiving responsibilities. This is called respite. Short breaks can be a key part of maintaining your own health. Make your needs known to family, friends, and your doctor.
Here are 3 steps for helpful communication.
- Identify a specific caregiving task or block of time you would like help with. Maybe there’s an evening during the week or help with getting groceries that would make a big difference for you. When someone asks how they can help, be ready with a specific request.
- Be understanding if the person turns you down. They may not be able to help with that time or task but still want to support you. Don’t be afraid to ask again.
- If you have trouble asking for help face-to-face, e-mail your friends and family about your needs. You can also try setting up a shared calendar or document so people can sign up to help you with respite.
You can also contact your local Area Agency on Agingexternal icon to learn about caregiver support services in your area. Some may have online support groups, others may help with respite services, and others have caregiver celebration days. Area Agencies on Aging are excellent places to find local support as a caregiver.
Self-care isn’t selfish. Make sure you have consistent breaks from your caregiving responsibilities, get enough sleep, continue seeing your doctor, eat nutritious food, stay connected to friends and family, and exercise regularly.
Who Are Baby Booomer Caregivers?
The CDC study found that 1 in 4 baby boomers are caregivers and that:
- They are more likely to be women (61.7%).
- They are more likely to be White (74%), compared to Black/African Americans (11%), Hispanic (9%), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (1%).
- More than half have been providing care for at least 2 years.
- More than one-quarter provide more than 20 hours per week of care.
- Miyawaki CE, Bouldin ED, Taylor CA, McGuire LC. Baby Boomers as Caregivers: Results From the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 44 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2015–2017. Prev Chronic Dis 2020;17:200010. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd17.200010external icon