A study of aging veterans with spinal cord injuries showed that 37% of the veterans studies had unpaid assistants giving them daily care. Mostly women with an average age of 53, these volunteers provided about 12 hours of care a day. More than half of the veterans said they didn't have anyone else willing and able to provide the care.
The 348 veterans in the study received care at the Houston Department of Veterans Affairs. The 30 who reported receiving informal, unpaid care received assistance from a spouse or partner (59%), parent (18%), sibling or sibling's spouse (9%), a child or child's spouse (8%), friend (2%), or another person (3%).
In a health rating, participants said the caregiver's health was good (26%), very good (27%), or excellent (17%). Twenty-two percent said the caregiver health was fair, and 8% said poor. One-fourth said they didn't think the caregiver could provide care in five years.
"The vast majority of informal care is provided by a single primary care provider, and these informal care providers are aging along with the veterans with SCI. Although other family members do not appear to lighten the care load of primary informal care providers, having paid care assistance did." (p. 515)
Although this study focused only on men, the question remains: Who will provide care to people with spinal cord injuries as they continue to age and their informal caregivers don't have the capacity to provide physical care? #1996
Robinson-Whelen, S., & Rintala, D. H. (2003, November/December). Informal care providers for veterans with SCI: Who are they and how are they doing? Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development 40(6), 511-516.
Copyright. The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Independent Living.