Chronically Ill Older Adults Rely On Others For Care

According to a new report, a majority of those who are married have spouses with at least one chronic illness that can affect their ability to provide support.  The findings the importance of health care professionals directly addressing the roles that family members play in the care of their aging parents or other relatives.

The study looked at U.S. residents who were age 51 or older with chronic health problems who participated in the 2006 Health and Retirement Study, a national longitudinal study conducted at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Researchers found that 93 percent of the chronically ill older adults had adult children, but for half of them, the children lived more than 10 miles away.

Roughly 19 million older chronically ill Americans have adult children living at a distance, explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  “Even when a spouse is available, the vast majority struggle with their own chronic medical needs and functional limitations,” Slome adds.

University of Michigan staff are working to develop telephone monitoring systems that involve family members in a relative’s care through e-mail alerts or automated phone calls. The “CarePartners” program has been developed for patients with heart failure, diabetes, depression, and cancer chemotherapy. 

The program is being studied as part of randomized trials and community demonstration programs throughout mission as well as internationally.

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