Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Changing Demographics Changes Caregiving

While much of what we talk about on this blog is related to cancer it’s important to know that cancer is no longer a “stand alone” illness or disability. There is no longer a sick spouse and a well spouse—even though a lot of the discussion around caregiving is framed in that false dichotomy. Because of the dramatic shifts in demographics and changes in healthcare it’s very unlikely that a family or a household will deal only with cancer.

Here are some statistics on aging, cancer and chronic illness in the New York Capital Region:

*By 2015 the number of people over 60 will increase by 40%

*By 2012 six out of 10 people over 60 will manage more than 1 chronic illness

*By 2020 cancer survivors will increase by 55%

*By 2021 the age group of people 85+ will increase by 35%

*By 2012 the number of formal caregivers (nurses, aides, case managers) will decrease by 20%

If you look at those statistics side-by-side you’ll see the dilemma we are facing: The good news: more of us will live longer. But the fine print that we forget to read says we’ll live longer with cancer and with multiple chronic conditions. It also means that our caregivers will also live longer but with much more complicated health issues of their own. What that good and bad news really means is that most of our households will have multiple caregivers –spouses and partners will trade roles most of the time or will be simultaneously caregivers for each other.

This is a consequence of better healthcare and of the rapid changes in cancer treatment.

You may be experiencing this. One member of your family may have cancer but someone else in the family has heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, MS, or another form of cancer. As we age better, and live longer, this will go back and forth multiple times.

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