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Survey: The emotional impact of being a caregiver

By on November 15th, 2012
Filed: Baby Boomer, Caregivers, Early Retirees, Facts, Medicare, Research

Every day at eHealthInsurance we get phone calls from people who are taking care of their elderly parents. Especially right now, in the middle of Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period. If that’s you, you’re not alone. In fact, research shows that about 20% of all adults in America provide unpaid care for an elderly parent or family member.

This is often a very vulnerable, underappreciated group of people so earlier this week we posted the results of a survey that we ran with our partners at AgingCare.com. AgingCare is an online community for people caring for elderly loved-ones.

The survey covers a number of topics, including the financial and emotional impact of being a caregiver, as well as the challenges caregivers face with Medicare. In this post I want to share some of the results focused on the emotional toll that being a caregiver can take on a person.

The emotional toll caregivers face

Our survey found that, for most caregivers, taking care of an older parent is a rewarding experience. But, it’s not without its challenges. Less than ten percent could rate their experience as “mostly positive,” while a third said their experience was “mostly negative.”

The survey also found that being a caregiver takes a toll on personal relationships. The vast majority of caregivers (90%) said that being a caregiver had impacted their personal relationships, and one in four (25%) said it had negatively impacted their relationship with their parents.

Among married caregivers, their relationship with their spouse suffered most. For single caregivers, their relationships with their extended family were the hardest hit.

We asked: Which relationship has been impacted the most by your role as a caregiver?

 

All

Married

Single (Divorced, Widowed, Single)

  • Spouse: 34%
  • Children: 12%
  • Extended family: 28%
  • Friends: 22%
  • Coworkers: 2%
  • Spouse: 56%
  • Children: 13%
  • Extended family: 16%
  • Friends: 12%
  • Coworkers: 3%
  •  Spouse: 10%
  • Children: 12%
  • Extended family: 42%
  • Friends: 34%
  • Coworkers: 2%

The report also revealed the following:

How do caregivers feel about their experience? The survey asked caregivers to qualify the emotional impact of being a caregiver in one of three ways: mostly positive, mostly negative or equally positive and negative. A high percentage said the experience was mostly negative.

  • 33% – Mostly negative. One-third (33%) of those surveyed said their experience as a caregiver had a mostly negative impact on their lives.
  • 9% – Mostly positive. By comparison, less than one-in-ten (9%) of those surveyed said their experience as a caregiver had a mostly positive impact on their lives.
  • 58% – Equally positive and negative. The majority (58%) felt being a caregiver had made an equally positive and negative impact on their lives.

 How does being a caregiver impact one’s relationships with the care receiver? Taking care of a parent can also impact the caregiver’s relationship with the parent they’re caring for.

  • 25% – Negative impact. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the caregivers in the survey said that being caregiver had negatively impacted their relationship with their parent(s).
  • 32% – Positive impact. Nearly a third (32%) said it had improved their relationship with their parent(s).
  • 43% – Little to no impact. Less than half (43%) said it had little to no impact on their relationship; one in 10 (9%) said there was no impact; and one in three (35%) said it had a minor impact.

 Which personal relationships are affected as a result of being a caregiver? The majority of caregivers (90%) said their roles as caregivers have impacted one or more of their personal relationships. Only one in 10 (10%) said their relationships with family and friends were not impacted at all. When asked to name all personal relationships that had been impacted, caregivers said:

  • 58% – Family. The majority (58%) said their relationships with siblings and other family members were altered as a result of caring for their parent.
  • 50% – Friends. Half (50%) of the caregivers surveyed said their relationships with friends were affected.
  • 22% – Workplace. About one in five (22%) said caregiving impacted their relationships in the workplace.

 Among married caregivers, the personal relationships that had been impacted included:

  • 74% – Spouse. Three-fourths (74%) said being a caregiver impacted their marriage.
  • 52% – Family. Half (52%) said being a caregiver had impacted their relationship with family members.
  • 48% – Children. About half (48%) said being a caregiver had impacted their relationship with their children.
  • 19% – Workplace. One in five (19%) said being a caregiver had impacted their relationships in the workplace.

About Jodie Jensen


At eHealth, Jodie Jensen trains licensed agents about the Medicare program so that they can better assist customers with questions. As the oldest daughter in her family, it fell to Jodie to take care of her aging father and help him choose a Medicare plan, an experience that had such a huge impact on her life and her family’s finances that it motivated her to change her career and become a licensed Medicare agent.

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