NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Eleven percent of the people who participated in a LifeWay Research survey said they or an immediate family member are the primary full-time caregiver to an elderly parent or a special needs child, a statistic also shown in two other national studies.
Approximately 14 percent of American children under age 18 have special health care needs, according to the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. That survey defined children with special health care needs as "those who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition" and require health care beyond the amount required by children generally. Presumably not all children included in the survey require full-time care.
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 36 out of every 1,000 Americans 65 and older live in a nursing home while 277 per 10,000 require home health care.
According to the LifeWay study, marital status and race signal the most significant differences in people's status as primary full-time caregivers. People who are unmarried and living with a partner (18 percent) are acting as primary caregivers for elderly parents or special needs children far more than either married people (11 percent) or single people (9 percent).
The online survey was conducted this fall using a national sample of Americans representative of the U.S. population in terms of gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, income and region of the country. The survey used an online panel weighted to be representative of the population. The sample size of 1,580 provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +2.5 percent.
Females (14 percent) are caregivers for elderly parents or special needs children more often than males (9 percent), according to the LifeWay Research data.
Neither education nor income level make much difference in a person's likelihood of being a full-time primary caregiver to a child or parent. There is also no significant difference based on region of the country. However, those most able to outsource care to others — those making $100,000 and above — actually provide full-time care just as often (13 percent) as other income groups.
Eighteen percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are primary caregivers for elderly parents or special needs children, compared with 14 percent of blacks, 11 percent of Hispanics and 10 percent of whites.
Age and gender also are factors that correlate with differences in caregiving status. Those age 65 and older (6 percent) care for an elderly parent or special needs child less than any other age bracket. Fourteen percent of people ages 35 to 49 are primary caregivers, as are 12 percent of those ages 25 to 34, 12 percent of those ages 50 to 64 and 10 percent of those ages 18 to 24.
"This research should open our eyes to the number of people in our churches and communities that are looking for people to be the hands and feet of Jesus," Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said. "Many American church leaders and members that I know reject the idea of increased government involvement in establishing universal health care. But, for the most part, the American church continues to ignore the emphasis that Jesus Himself placed on the poor and the sick. We disregard James' exhortation to not forget the widows and orphans. Until caring for the sick and the poor becomes as cool as church planting and rapid church growth, the church should not be surprised when the government steps in to do our God-called work."
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach writes for LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)