According to a recent national family caregiving study, 17 percent of caregivers of adults provide care for a veteran and 11 percent have served in the armed forces themselves. While there are many studies that have probed the needs of the veterans, the United Health Foundation in collaboration with the National Alliance for Caregiving has taken the first in-depth look at the family caregivers of our nation’s veterans.
The study, Caregivers of Veterans – Serving on the Homefront gives voice to caregivers who are caring for veterans across the age spectrum -- from combat eras dating from World War II to the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While these caregivers face similar situations as national caregivers, including caring for someone with chronic illness or aging issues, they also have unique challenges such as dealing with physical disabilities and emotional and mental health issues. The study reveals how providing care affects caregivers’ lives, what organizations and information sources have been helpful to them, and what programs and services would support and assist them.
Key Findings from the study include:
- Overwhelmingly, veterans’ caregivers are women (96 percent) - compared to national caregiving statistics overall which show 65 percent are women
- Twice as many veterans’ caregivers (30 percent) said they have been caregiving for 10 or more years – compared to the national caregiving statistic where only 15 percent stated the same
- Three times as many caregivers of veterans reported spending 40 hours a week or more providing care (43 percent) compared to the total number of caregivers nationally (13 percent)
- Sixty-eight percent of veterans’ caregivers reported their situation as highly stressful compared to 31 percent of caregivers nationally who feel the same
- 70 percent of caregivers reported that their veteran experiences depression or anxiety, and 60 percent report post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to only 28 percent of caregivers nationally whose care recipients suffer from mental or emotional health problems.
- Of the 68 percent who were employed, almost half (47 percent) reported leaving work entirely or taking early retirement compared to national caregiver statistics who reported the same (9 percent)
- As seen in other caregiving studies, caregivers feel their role is a labor of love; 94 percent of the veterans’ caregivers reported they are “proud to serve”