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News for baby boomers: Caregivers to plummet

Wednesday September 04, 2013

Dennis Thompson

Health Care Inc. Northwest - Baby boomers will have fewer family members around to provide care for them in their old age, a demographic trend that reflects another coming crisis for America’s health care system, according to a new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Right now, people who are older than 80 have on average at least seven family members, partners or close friends who can serve as caregivers for them, according to AARP's study. But by 2030 there will by only about four people on hand to potentially provide care for a person older than 80.

“In just 13 years, as the baby boomers age into their 80s, the decline in the caregiver support ratio will shift from a slow decline to a free fall,” the report says.

Nearly all baby boomers will be 80 or older by 2050, and by that point there will be only three potential caregivers surrounding them.

Oregon’s caregiver gap exactly mirrors the national trend. Baby-boomer Oregonians will only have about three people in their lives who could help care for them by 2050.

“More than two-thirds (68 percent) of Americans believe that they will be able to rely on their families to meet their long-term services and supports needs when they require help, but this belief may collide with the reality of dramatically shrinking availability of family caregivers,” the report states.

This trend will occur because changing family sizes have caused the number of people in the primary caregiving years of 45 to 64 to flatten out. While more and more people enter old age, the same number of folks will be around to care for them, the study says.

The report concludes with a call for policy makers to begin building a better support system for caregiving in America. Otherwise, more people will likely need expensive institutional care, while those few family members available to care for seniors will experience financial hardships and physical and emotional strain.

Thompson, D. (4 Sep 2013). Health Care Inc. Northwest. Bad news for baby boomers: Caregivers to plummet. www.bizjournals.com/portland

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