Inaugural Pitt report finds spousal caregivers with disabilities face poverty, health issues – identifies gaps for policy support

Cover of the report - in the background in shades of blue is a Black couple; the woman is pushing the man in his wheelchair and they're smiling at each other. The text overlay reads: "National Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Family Support (NCFS) Caregiver Profile: A Closer Look at Spousal Caregivers"

An inaugural white paper from our Center found that spousal caregivers with disabilities face a litany of complications while trying to tend to aging or ailing spouses and partners: health problems, mental health difficulties, work issues, even financial and healthcare strains.

While caregiver issues abound across all groups of Americans today, “NCFS Caregiver Profiles: A Closer Look at Spousal Caregivers ” analyzes recent data from two large national datasets to provide a detailed look at caregivers who are supporting a spouse or partner and identifies unmet needs for support among younger caregivers with disabilities.

Spousal caregivers were more likely to report a disability and were generally older than other caregiver subgroups, with close to half of the population studied over the age of 65. Spousal caregivers also had higher burdens of chronic disease and often reported worse physical health, even leading to issues at work.

We also found that 20% of all spousal caregivers with disabilities under the age of 65 live below the poverty line — compared to 7.6% of their counterparts over 65. Under-65 spousal caregivers with a disability also were about half as likely as those without disabilities in the same age cohort to be employed for wages (32% vs. 60%), were less likely to be self-employed (5% vs. 10%) and were less likely to have a four-year college degree (12% vs. 27%). At 49%, this under-65 caregiver cohort with disabilities also was the most likely to report a diagnosis of depressive disorder, compared to only 17% of those in the same age group without disability and 25% of those over-65 with disability.

These findings indicate a potential gap in services for younger spousal caregivers with disability and a need to focus on  this population for support.

More detailed findings, including information about the national surveys used, are available on the Caregiver Profiles page.