Family caregiving affects millions of Americans every day, in all walks of life. At least 17.7 million individuals in the United States are family care-givers of someone age 65 and older who needs help because of a limitation in their physical, mental, or cognitive functioning. As a society, we have always depended on family caregivers to provide the lion’s share of long- term services and supports (LTSS) for our elders. Yet the need to recognize and support caregivers is among the most significant overlooked challenges facing the aging U.S. population, their families, and society.
For decades, demographers, gerontologists, health researchers, health care professionals, economists, and other experts have called attention to the nation’s rapidly aging population. However, little action has been taken to prepare the health care and LTSS systems for this unprecedented demo-graphic shift.
By 2030, 72.8 million—more than one in five U.S. residents— will be age 65 or older. The greatest growth will be in the numbers of the “oldest old,” the population that is most in need of help because they are the most likely to have physical, cognitive, and other functional limitations.