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Increasing Disability Doesn't Have to Sideline Seniors

A doctor can help determine the best ways to keep a disabled senior active.
A doctor can help determine the best ways to keep a disabled senior active.

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July 13, 2011

There's nothing like a disability to take the sizzle from a senior's life. If you're a family caregiver and have a spouse with a disability, consider professional respite care to help provide you and your loved one support.

Q. My 80-year-old husband is disabled due to a heart condition. And yet I feel like I did at age 60. What determines disability and how can I help him lead a more active life?

Sadly, increasing disability is a risk of growing older, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Even though only about one in five U.S. residents—19.9 percent—reported some level of disability in 2005, more than one of three of all disabled in the U.S. are senior citizens, age 65 or older.

Of the 35.03 million senior citizens living in the U.S., 18.1 million (52 percent) had a disability. Of this number, 12.9 million (37 percent) had a severe disability and 5.5 million (15.6 percent) needed assistance with daily living.

This is strong evidence that the chances of becoming disabled increase with age. But, it continues to get worse in advanced years. For people 80 and older, the disability rate was 71 percent, with 56 percent having a severe disability. Females age 65 and older were much more likely to be disabled—56.5 percent, than senior men—45.35 percent.

More than 16 million people had difficulty with cognitive, mental or emotional functioning. This included 8.4 million with one or more problems that interfere with daily activities, such as frequently being depressed or anxious, trouble getting along with others, trouble concentrating and trouble coping with stress.

It's not all bad news, however. Seniors are staying at home longer and more active, even with a disability. In fact, industry surveys say that upwards of 90 percent of all seniors expect to remain at home.

Your husband's doctor can guide you to the best ways to keep your husband active. As his family caregiver, it will be important for you not to take on too much. Make sure that you have plenty of help including respite care for your husband so that you can take a break and keep up your strength.

Contact your local Home Instead Senior Care® office today for more information about the services that make life easier for family caregivers.

For more information about the research, go to

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