Perspectives on Rural Caregiving Challenges and Interventions


Recent estimates suggest that 80-90% of all long-term care needs are met by informal caregivers, usually family members, and more than 44 million Americans are currently providing unpaid care to a loved one, with the majority of care recipients being 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.

Rural areas have an older population structure than urban areas and face shortages in the formal long-term care workforce, pushing even more of the burden of care to unpaid caregivers. Additionally, rural residents anticipate that they will need more assistance from caregivers with activities of daily living as they age than urban residents. Despite this, caregiver support programs are no more prevalent in rural areas, and are scarcer for some populations. This leaves rural caregivers who may need help most at the greatest risk of not receiving it.

This brief identifies potential strategies for supporting rural caregivers using information from key informant interviews from experts in informal caregiving across the country.

University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
Carrie Henning-Smith, Megan Lahr