The changing role of caregiving was one of the topics discussed at the recent American Society on Aging’s massive Aging in America 2015 conference in Chicago, Ill.

In a presentation by Lynn Friss Feinberg, senior strategic policy advisor for the AARP Public Policy Institute, the topic of caregiving was discussed. Feinberg has done policy analysis and applied research on family caregiving and long-term services and supports for more than three decades, according to AARP. She began by saying that there is greater complexity today in the caregiving role.

Older people have multiple chronic conditions. Families serve as both care coordinators and service providers. They serve as social workers and nurses, and without adequate training many feeling very scared about their role because they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing to do it right, she said.
People are discharged quicker and sicker from hospitals today, so nearly one-half of family caregivers of adults are carrying out health-related tasks in the home, she said, adding this is a huge shift from the old days.
So what are these tasks that are so scary?
Managing complex medication schedules is one. Imagine if you are working at your job, but your grandmother came home from the hospital with prescriptions for 16 different medications that had to be taken. And you can’t afford to hire help in the home, so you have to run home periodically during the day to tend to this.

Also, there are more women in the workplace, especially older women, and women today define the provider role as not only taking care of their families but also supporting their families economically, Feinberg said. Among 55- to 64-year-olds, women’s labor force participation increased from 41 percent in 1980 to 59 percent in 2012 and is projected to reach 67 percent by 2020.
Another difference is the changing composition of families and households. There is more long-distance caregiving.

To read more about this presentation at the Aging in America 2015 conference, read the blog by Emily Gurnon, Senior Content Editor covering health for the PBS website Next Avenue at or at the Aging in America website at

Next year’s conference will be held March 20-24 in Washington, D.C.