Caregiving Needs Are Unmet for Many Older Homeless Adults: Findings from the HOPE HOME Study

J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Nov;37(14):3611-3619. doi: 10.1007/s11606-022-07438-z. Epub 2022 Feb 15.


Background: The homeless population is aging, with early onset of cognitive and functional impairments. It is unclear whether older homeless adults receive caregiving assistance that could prevent long-term disability.

Objective: We describe characteristics of older homeless-experienced adults with caregiving need and determine factors associated with having unmet need.

Design and participants: Cross-sectional analysis of a longitudinal study, Health Outcomes in People Experiencing Homelessness in Older Middle Age (HOPE HOME), examining health, life course events, and functional status among older homeless-experienced (i.e., currently and recently homeless) adults. We recruited 350 homeless adults (July 2013-June 2014) and an additional 100 (August 2017 to July 2018) in Oakland, California; this study includes 303 participants who completed caregiving interviews.

Measurements: We defined caregiving need as difficulty with activities of daily living (ADLs), instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), falls, Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) score < 10, or Modified Mini-Mental State (3MS) exam impairment. We defined unmet need as having caregiving need and reporting not receiving caregiving assistance in the last 6 months. Using logistic regression, we analyzed associations between respondent characteristics and unmet caregiving need.

Results: Among 303 participants, the mean age was 61.3 ± 5.0 years; 73% were men and 82% were Black. Eighty-one percent had caregiving needs, and in 82% of those, their caregiving needs were unmet. Better self-rated health (AOR 2.13, CI [1.02-4.46], p = 0.04) and being a man (AOR 2.30, CI [1.12-4.69], p = 0.02) were associated with higher odds of unmet need. Moderate or high-risk substance use (AOR 0.47, CI [0.23, 0.94], p = 0.03) was associated with lower odds of unmet need.

Conclusions: Older homeless-experienced adults have high prevalence of unmet caregiving need. Interventions that increase caregiving access for homeless-experienced individuals may help avoid poor health outcomes and costly long-term-care needs due to untreated disabilities.

Keywords: caregivers; caregiving; homeless; older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons* / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / epidemiology