Community and family caregiving can be overlooked. Yet, they are vital components of our healthcare system. The number of seniors requiring care is ballooning, and the availability of caregivers is shrinking.

Caregiving is becoming increasingly complex, but more elderly individuals are providing care instead of receiving it. The list goes on and on. So, this November — National Family Caregivers Month — let’s reflect on what’s happening in family caregiving.

Trends in Family Caregiving

1. Growth in caregiving technologies

Tech companies are focusing on the aging population. Technology designed to replace and assist caregivers is on the rise, and apps intended to help seniors manage daily life are popular. Seniors have turned to apps like Medisafe, Google Maps parking space reminders, HomeAway, and Lumosity for support.

Alexa reminds them to take their medicine, provides details about the weather, and even places orders for household essentials. Over the next decade, technology will become increasingly tailored to those requiring care, which will make it easier for them to live alone.

2. A focus on dementia

There’s been a significant focus on assisting those with dementia in the community caregiving space. Software like Careteam now makes it possible to reduce the number of hospital admissions associated with dementia by helping care teams stay up-to-date and connected.

Patients, families, and caregivers can access the information they need in one location — including care plans, appointments, tasks, reminders, and more. Such assistance helps caregivers remain organized and proactive. It also helps them avoid burnout.

Seniorlink, Inc. offers its VOICE (Vital Outcomes Inspired by Caregiver Engagement) program for dementia care. The program is now available to health providers and plans and focuses on improving confidence amongst family caregivers supporting loved ones with dementia.

3. Caregivers are becoming increasingly rare and more diverse

The Families Caring for an Aging America report predicts a future with fewer caregivers. People are living longer, but fertility rates are lower. The number of couples deciding not to have children is increasing. Divorce rates are rising, and more people are staying single.

These trends foretell a future where the elderly have fewer children to rely on for care, or may be divorced, living alone, and distanced from their children and loved ones.

However, while the number of caregivers is decreasing, diversity amongst caregivers is increasing. In a study called Caregiving in the U.S., the AARP reported that approximately 40% of caregivers are now males.

The typical caregiver was a middle-aged, stay-at-home mom not long ago, but that’s changing fast. Millennial caregivers are on the rise, too, as well as friends-as-caregivers.

4. Caregivers are performing increasingly complex medical tasks

At one time, caregivers primarily assisted family members with daily living. They would help bathe, dress, feed, and transport their aging relatives. Now caregivers are asked to help with day-to-day medical tasks typically handled by nurses.

They may monitor blood sugar, give medications, dress wounds, deal with catheters, and use sophisticated medical equipment. The complexity and enormity of tasks assigned to caregivers are staggering and something to consider at a systematic level.

A Big Job

Caregivers play an essential role in our healthcare system. They are increasingly asked to do more with less despite advances in support technology, and their job is becoming increasingly complex.

The potential for burnout is high, and the number of available replacements is low. As the size of the aging population increases, family caregiving will be an area we can’t afford to overlook.