Did you know this? I didn’t:
”Every day, Bureau of Labor Statistics interviewers ask Americans to detail how they spent the previous 24 hours, how many minutes and hours they devoted to everything from shopping to child care to phone calls. The results, culled from 12,500 respondents, make up the American Time Use Survey.”
I mean, I knew the BLS regularly collects information about what Americans are doing, but I didn’t know they did it so frequently. And, The New York Times tells us, only last year did the BLS begin asking about the amount of time people spend on elder caregiving.
The BLS just released its elder care report for the year 2011 and Paula Span at The Times has some understandable problems with the agency’s numbers:
”The survey, we should note,” writes Span, “uses a very broad definition of ‘caregiver.’ You qualify if you provided unpaid care of any kind (including simple companionship or ‘being available to assist when help is needed’) more than once in the past three months, regardless of how long you spent at it.
“So a 17-year-old who paid two 20-minute visits to her grandmother since mid-April is, to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an elder care provider.
For me, such loose definitions make it hard to make sense of the entire survey. You can let us know your sense of what an elder care provider is below.
Many Time Goes By readers have been or are full-time caregivers. When it’s been discussed here, that has mostly meant round the clock. My personal definition of caregiving is having complete responsibility – whether full-or part-time, living in the same dwelling or apart – being the primary overseer of whatever the care recipient needs.
Among other difficulties with the survey is the interesting statistic that only 56 percent of caregivers are women. I say “only” because it is so unexpected that nearly half are men. But it is either a good development that men are taking a larger part or, like the 17-yeaer-old example above, they’re show up for 20 minutes once a month. We have no way to know.
Another statistic that sounds way off to me and I’d like to know more about is that only 4.3 percent of elder care providers are doing so for a spouse or unmarried partner. I’m guessing that number should be much higher and Paula Span agrees:
“If spouses are just doing what they think of as normal household chores — shopping for groceries, preparing meals, doing laundry — they won’t necessarily categorize this as providing unpaid help to someone over age 65. ‘It’s hard to distinguish what you’ve always done for someone from elder care,’ Ms. Denton acknowledged.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: For Real – Part 2