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Caregiving in the U.S. 2009 offers material for tech marketers

Caregiving -- by older women, for older women. The new report, Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, sponsored by the National Alliance for Caregiving, AARP, and MetLife (and funded by MetLife) is a comprehensive survey of 1480 caregivers, defined as those age 18 and over who provide unpaid help to another person. The most intriguing aspect of the study is the comparison to the last published version from 2004.  Seventy percent of those surveyed care for someone over the age of 50; of these 66% of the caregivers are female and their average age has gone up from 46 to 49 -- with the average age of care recipients who are age 75 and older up from 43% to 51%. Average time in the caregiving role -- 4.6 years. Takeaway: all are aging, caregivers are in for the long haul. 

A interesting flip-flop note about senior housing. For the most part, care recipients are either in their own home or live in the caregiver's household. I couldn't help but notice an interesting swap from 2004 to 2009. In 2004, 5% of care recipients lived in nursing homes -- in 2009, that's down to 4%. But wait: in 2004, 4% lived in assisted living and now 5% live there.  Hmmm.  So what's that say about the average age in assisted living? According to the Assisted Living Federation of America, females outnumber males by 3 to 1 and the age of residents continues to rise: "The median age is now 86.9 years and median income is $18,972, a slight increase from the 2006 survey. More than one third of all assisted living residents suffer from Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia." Takeaway: ALFs are taking share of the oldest away from nursing homes -- this is potentially a nightmare of increased vulnerability and less care.

The survey set offers information interest areas of focus. Three quarters live together or within twenty minutes of their care recipients, a slightly greater proportion than in 2004. This also seems to be an influence over the type of information caregivers are seeking, including a greater interest in resident safety, more interest in managing their own stress, and more interest in activities to do with care recipients. Ironically, perhaps due to stress, caregiver interest in information about choosing an assisted living facility has jumped up from 13% to 19% (but only among those who live separately from their care recipient, which amounts to the same 55% as 2004) or choosing a nursing home (up from 8% to 17%). Takeaway: senior housing has access, needs to change the offer, extending services into the community to offer activities and access to respite.

Who do they use to obtain information? Not surprisingly, caregivers turn first to health or caregiving providers (36%) followed by the Internet (25%).  However, for higher income caregivers ($100,000 or more), now we're talking about 66% using the Internet, but only if they are under age 65 (56%), and most predominantly if they are Asian Americans (66%). Again, not surprisingly, they are looking for information about their care recipient's condition or treatment (78%) or caregiving services (58%). Takeaway: help them with content on health-related issues (including dementia), for most products or services.

Finally, what's the penetration of technology -- ah, there is a ways to go. This is always a tough question and gets a not-totally-useful answer -- 24% are using an electronic organizer or calendar.  Twelve percent indicated they use a PERS device (equated to Lifeline), 11% are using home telehealth to transmit information to a provider, 9% are using an electronic sensor in the home to detect safety problems, and 7% are using some sort of personal record keeper.  Takeaway: Combine PERS and home telehealth and add an ongoing record keeper and calendar.