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Family Caregivers
Statistics, Tips & Challenges for Family Caregivers

Family caregivers, defined as informal caregivers by the Family Caregiver Alliance, is an unpaid individual giving care and assisting another person with daily living or medical activities. Family caregiver is a spouse, partner, adult child, friend, or neighbor.

Formal caregivers, defined as professional providers, giving daily living or medical help to another person in one's home or in a residential care setting; daycare, assisted living, hospital, and medical care facility. They're paid for the services rendered.

U.S. Family Caregiver Statistics

65.7 million caregivers make up 29% of the adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2009) - Updated: November 2012

52 million caregivers care for adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness. [Coughlin, J., (2010). Estimating the Impact of Caregiving and Employment on Well-Being - Updated: November 2012

43.5 million adult family caregivers care for someone 50+ years of age and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer's and Dementia Updated: November 2012

LGBT respondents are slightly more likely to have provided care to an adult friend or relative in the past six months: 21% vs. 17%. Still Out, Still Aging - Updated: November 2012

Family Caregivers

Characteristics of Family Caregivers
Characteristics of Family Caregivers

More women provide caregiving tasks to loved ones than men (21.9 vs. 17.4 hours per week), but the stats are changing. More men today step into the primary caregiver position.

Of the 52 million acting as an informal caregiver, 59% have full-time jobs outside the home.

Although more women than men still play this role (59% to 75%), there's a 50% increase in the number of male caregivers.

One of the biggest challenges family caregivers face; to balance family obligations while working full or part-time outside the home.

These responsibilities include:

  • Work,
  • Care recipient, Children, Spouse,
  • Their own day-to-day lives like self-care.

Caregiver Roles

  • Social Contact
  • Manage health
  • Manage finances
  • Transportation
  • Food Shopping
  • Healthcare agent
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Bathing/Dressing
  • Help with transferring
  • Support using technology
  • Administering medications
  • Assisting with incontinence supplies or equipment
  • Applying bandages, ointment, treating pressure sores, or post surgical wounds
  • Help with ostomy care
  • Health administration

Challenges that Family Caregivers Face

Some of the challenges that family caregivers deal with in caregiving for relatives are physical, emotional and economic.

Remember to ask for help. In receiving help, you become a better caregiver.

Do not feel like you're in this alone or you need to do it all yourself because the care recipient is a relative. Help is available and you're encouraged to ask for it, even if you believe you can do it all alone.

There are services, information, training and counseling that can help you provide better care to a relative. By doing so, you're taking better care of your health, financial future, and sanity.

  • Knowledge and education of health and medical conditions of care recipient
  • Education and know-how on caregiver tasks
  • Physical, mental, and emotional demands
  • Knowledge of medications and adherence
  • Financial burdens
  • Locating community support programs
  • Burnout and stress
  • Social well-being
  • Balancing family life
  • Work balance
  • Gathering legal documents
  • Maintaining health records of care recipient
  • Costs of giving care

Tips and Solutions for Caregivers

Seek Support

The National Family Caregiver Support Program offers support services to family caregivers. Under this program, States provide five types of services:

  • Information to caregivers about available services,
  • Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to the services,
  • Individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training,
  • Respite care,
  • Supplemental services, on a limited basis

Support for Family Caregivers

Other places for support:

  • Family members or friends who will listen without judgment
  • Your church, temple, or other place of worship
  • Caregiver support groups at a local hospital or online
  • A therapist, social worker, or counselor
  • National caregiver organizations
  • Organizations specific to your family member's illness or disability

Community Support

  • Call a local senior center, county information and referral service, university gerontology department, and family services.
  • Caregiver support for veterans - some VA programs are free, while others require co-payments, depending upon the veteran's status, income, etc.
  • Community transportation services - in the U.S., your local Area Agency on Aging can help you locate transportation to and from adult day care, senior centers, shopping malls, and doctor's appointments.
  • Telephone check-ins - reassurance calls provide pre-scheduled phone calls to homebound older adults to reduce isolation and monitor well-being.
  • Adult day care - If well enough, consider adult day care. It gives family caregivers needed breaks during the day or week.

Accept Feelings

  • Anxiety and worry - handling care responsibilities are worrisome and what will happen to your family member if something happens to you adds to the anxiety.
  • Anger or resentment - may feel resentful towards the care recipient or siblings.
  • Guilt - feelings of not doing enough or not providing better care. Have patience with yourself.
  • Grief - feelings of loss accompanies caregiving, especially if the care recipient is terminally ill.

Attend to Self-Care

  • Take time to relax daily
  • Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Talk out your situation with someone to make sense of your feelings.
  • Pray, meditate, or an activity that makes you feel part of something greater.
  • Pay attention to signs of depression and anxiety - get professional help if needed.
  • Stay social. Make it a priority to visit regularly with other people.
  • Do things you enjoy and don't give up activities that are important to you.
  • Give yourself a break. Take regular breaks from caregiving.
  • Join a religious group, social club, or civic organization.
  • Exercise regularly - get least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week.
  • Eat right. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Get rest and sleep. Aim for an average of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
  • Health checks - visit your doctor and dentist for regular health checks.

Caregiver Training and Education

Caregiver training

The American Red Cross developed a training program and reference guide for family caregivers. Visit and search "family caregiving," or contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information.

The Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving provides Fact Sheets, Discussion Groups, telephone conferences, and other educational resources, including the Family Care Navigator, which provides state-by-state information on caregiving resources. For more information, visit the FCA Web site at

The National Family Caregiving Association provides a virtual library of educational resources on their Web site, under Caregiving Resources.

Arc of the United States ( provides information on their Web site for families raising children with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities, including an online Family Resource Guide with state-by-state information.

AARP offers free online seminars and educational resources on multiple aspects of family caregiving, including the comprehensive, multimedia AARP Caregiving Toolkit (go to and search "caregiving").

Mather LifeWays offers CARE Coaching Online and other support programs. Visit and click Institute on Aging for more information.

National Association of Social Workers offers educational resources on Help Starts Here.

Get Help from Congress

The nation's millions of family caregivers need much support to help sustain their care efforts. Informal caregivers are the pillar of the long-term care system and central topic in efforts to healthcare reform.

Congress needs your attention. The voice of caregivers makes a big difference in the U.S. health care delivery system. Let your members of Congress know that family caregivers are counting on them to help. Locate your representative or senator's address, visit: or call the Capitol Switchboard 1-800-828-0498.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.