We generally tend to think—and hope—that we are the exception to the rule. We believe that nothing bad will happen to us or our loved ones, that we will stay healthy and mobile until we pass away, quietly and many years down the road, with minimal strain or stress on our families. Unfortunately, life is rarely this simple or predictable. Instead, families across the country navigate countless and varied caregiving challenges every day.
All Americans need care at some point in their lives, and there are currently 41.6 million family caregivers across the United States, almost half of whom provide complex chronic care and perform medical tasks. The estimated economic contribution of unpaid family caregivers, approximately two-thirds of whom are women, was $450 billion in 2009, up $100 billion from 2006 and a number that is likely to grow as our population ages and lives longer. This issue brief will examine the breadth of caregiving challenges facing many different communities—from families with aging relatives, to people with disabilities, to individuals dealing with their own illnesses, and more. It will highlight the diverse needs of families and caregivers alike and explore what steps we can take—now and in the future—to find responsive solutions that work for everyone.
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