A Profile of Frail Older Americans and Their Caregivers

Source: Richard W. Johnson, Joshua M. Wiener, Urban Institute, Occasional Paper Number 8, 2006

Elderly disabled adults are a vulnerable population who frequently require home help. Partially cared for by family or friends, these individuals can become a burden to their unpaid caregivers and may not always receive sufficient assistance. This report profiles frail older Americans and their caregivers using data from the 2002 Health and Retirement Study. The study focuses on adults aged 65 years and older who are living at home and classifies them into two groups: (1) frail older adults who report difficulty with one activity of daily living; and (2) severely disabled older adults who have difficulty with three or more activities of daily living.

Key Findings:
• About 6 in 10 older adults with disabilities and about 9 in 10 persons with severe disabilities receive help from paid and unpaid caregivers.
• Women account for two-thirds of older people with severe disabilities and for about two-thirds of all caregivers.
• Despite the common belief that the American family is dispersed, around 60 percent of older persons with disabilities have children who live less than 10 miles away.

These findings highlight several policy issues including limited government support for older adults living at home.

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