Forum Session

Informal Care of the Frail Elderly: Policy and Practices to Support Family Caregivers
September 21, 2007


Carol V. O'Shaughnessy, MA


This meeting focused on trends in informal caregiving of the frail elderly from the vantage point of research, policy, and practice. The panel discussed research showing that the vast majority of the frail elderly—those who have long-term care needs because of physical, cognitive, or mental impairments —receive most of their care from family members and other informal unpaid caregivers, not formal paid providers. Speakers pointed to research showing that assistance to highly stressed caregivers can assist in delaying care recipients’ entry into nursing homes. Members of the panel also discussed the increasing complexity of caregiving tasks families assume, the role of employer eldercare assistance programs for employed caregivers, and the special needs and circumstances of Latino caregivers caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease in underserved ethnic communities in Los Angeles. Congress has supported specific assistance to caregivers in several pieces of legislation, including the Older Americans Act (National Family Caregiver Program), the Lifespan Respite Act of 2006, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. While these programs offer needed assistance, the aging of the population will intensify demands on family caregivers and increase the number of families who will need to provide caregiving services.


Brenda C. Spillman, PhD, Senior Research Associate, Health Policy Center, The Urban Institute; Carol Levine, Director, Families and Health Care Project, United Hospital Fund; Donna Wagner, PhD, Director of Gerontology, Towson University; Laura Trejo, General Manager, City of Los Angeles Department of Aging

Slides from the presentations by Dr. Spillman, Ms. Levine, Dr. Wagner, and Ms. Trejo are available for download.

Related Materials

Additional information made available at the meeting included a document on federally sponsored surveys on informal caregiving prepared by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Evaluation, Department of Health and Human Services, and a document on Medicare and Medicaid support for caregivers prepared by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

See also the entries for Forum sessions held on long-term care services and supports (November 2008) and consumer direction and its implications for caregivers (April 2002). A background paper on the Aging Services Network (December 2011) is also available.

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