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The Need for Personal Assistance with Everyday Activities: Recipients and Caregivers

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Report Number P70-19


A series of questions on the need for personal assistance was included in the sixth interview of the 1985 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the third interview of the 1986 SIPP panel, which were both conducted in September through December of 1986. These questions collected information on whether persons 15 years of age or older required the help of another person to (1) take care of personal needs such as dressing, eating, or personal hygiene, (2) get around outside the household, (3) do light housework such as washing dishes, straightening up, or light cleaning, (4) prepare meals, and (5) keep track of bills and/or money. The universe for SIPP is the noninstitutional population. This survey does not include persons living in nursing homes or other institutions. Persons were identified as needing assistance if they reported that they received personal assistance with one or more of the five activities listed above because of a health condition that had lasted or was expected to last three months or longer.1 The same survey also collected information on persons who provided care services to others. The questions on the need for care and on the provision of care are reproduced in appendix E. This report examines the characteristics of both persons who needed assistance and persons who provided care.

1 This report is an addition to a body of literature conceming the need for assistance. The data presented here show the number and characteristics of persons needing assistance with one or more of the five areas of activity listed above. For the sake of convenience, we have described these as "everyday activities." Other studies have used somewhat different lists of activities. Two measures that have been used extensively are the Activity of Daily Living (AOL) scale and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scale. The AOL scale includes the activities of bathing, dressing, transferring, using the toilet, continence, and eating (Sidney Katz, Amasa B. Ford, Roland Moskowitz, Beverly A. Jackson, and Majorie W. Jaffe, "Studies of Illness in the Aged," Journal of the American Medical Association, September 21, 1963). The IADL scale includes the activities of handling personal finances, meal preparation, shopping, travelling, doing housework, using the telephone, and taking medications (M. Powell Lawton and Elaine Brody, "Assessment of Older People: Self-Maintaining and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living," Gerontologist, Vol. 9, Autumn 1969).


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