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Trends in informal care for disabled older Americans, 1982-2012

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863–871
JournalThe Gerontologist
Issue number5
Early online date7 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


Purpose of the study. We examine trends in informal caregiving for community-dwelling disabled older Americans between 1982 and 2012. We decompose hours of care received from spouses and children according to changes in: (a) the number of potential spousal and child caregivers (“family structure”), (b) the likelihood that existing spouses and children are caregivers (“the propensity to give care”), and (c) the amount of care provided by individual caregivers (“caregiving intensity”). Design and Methods. We examine two sets of time trends based on distinct samples of community-dwelling disabled older Americans from the 1982-2004 waves of the National Long-Term Care Survey (NLTCS) and the 2000-2012 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Results. Existing spouses’ and children’s decreasing likelihood of being caregivers led to fewer spousal and child caregivers per disabled older person in the 2004 NLTCS than the 1982 NLTCS. However, the NLTCS and HRS time trends suggest that the amount of care provided by individual spousal and child caregivers has been similar across the thirty years. Implications. Because the intensity of care provided by individual family caregivers has remained fairly constant since the early 1980s, the needs of family caregivers who experience high stress and a high time burden continue to deserve our attention.

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