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The US may be facing a 'Caregiver Crisis'

Senior Reporter Mark Koebrich has more on the problem, and the physical, financial and emotional damage that caregivers often suffer while helping their loved ones.

KUSA - Every day in the United States, 10,000 people turn 65. By the year 2020, there will be 56 million Americans age 65 or older. 

Many of them will need care. The problem is, as the number of older Americans increases, the supply of family caregivers continues to shrink.

Right now, 95 percent of caregivers are family members and the government says they are currently the backbone of the country's long-term care system.

RELATED: A list of resources for caregivers in Colorado

Colleen Scarola, from Castle Rock, is one of those caregivers.

Scarola has a two-year-old, Reagan, and is expecting her second child in a soon. She is an attorney, has an office at home, and also teaches law at the University of Denver.

On top of that, Scarola is also a caregiver.

Scarola's mother has Alzheimer's. Diagnosed early in her 50's, her mother has lost touch with who she was. 

"The hardest part for me is just thinking about how my mom's not going to be here to see my kids grow up. I don't even know if she'll be here for the birth of my son," Scarola said while fighting back tears.

She is one of more than 44 million caregivers in the US. This averages to one in every six adults in the country.

Caregivers are primarily women and almost all of them, at some level or at some moment in the process, suffer from emotional distress.

Experts say long-term caregivers regularly develop serious health problems such as anxiety, depression and chronic and disabling physical disabilities. In fact, studies have shown that an influential factor in a caregivers decision to place an impaired relative in a long-term care facility is the family caregivers own physical health.

Scarola said she loves her mother beyond comprehension, but the situation is stressful. 

"You know my mom always use to say that you never know how strong you could be when you have no other choice and I didn't understand what that meant till we were in this situation and, I mean, life goes on," Scarola said.

Like many caregivers, Scarola often finds herself scrambling to adjust to accommodate the needs of those she cares for.

"Some of it is trying to have a schedule and some of it is you just don't know what's going to be thrown at you and you just have to adjust," she explained.

Last year, the work family caregivers go for their loved ones was valued at $232 billion dollars. 

A recent survey found 83 percent of Americans now want to the Government to come up with some type of funding to help with the caregiver crisis.

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