Currently, more than 80% of all long-term care is provided by informal (unpaid) caregivers, usually family members, and more than 44 million Americans are currently providing unpaid care to a loved one, the majority of whom are older adults. The value of unpaid caregiving has been estimated at nearly $500 billion annually, yet it receives far less research attention than institutional care or home health services. Caregiving, especially without appropriate support, is associated with various poor health outcomes for the caregiver. While the entire US is aging quickly, rural areas are aging at a faster rate and have greater long-term care needs. Further, rural areas face shortages in the formal long-term care workforce, pushing even more of the burden of care to unpaid caregivers. Yet, caregiver support programs are scarcer in rural areas, leaving caregivers who may need help most at the greatest risk of not receiving it. This project aims to describe rural-urban differences in the prevalence and intensity of informal caregiving for older adults and associated socio-demographic correlates, and to identify potential policy interventions to improve the quality of life and health outcomes of rural caregivers.
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