Who are Family Caregivers?

What is a Family Caregiver, what do they do, and how many are there?

This is the second post in a series about Family Caregivers. Start with my first post 👉 Helping Family Caregivers


Most people have no clue what a Family Caregiver is and when encouraged to guess typically assume that it’s someone who is getting paid to care for someone else. Unfortunately, only a portion of that guess is accurate.

Family Caregivers are most commonly loved ones who care for another loved one. For example, a daughter caring for her ill Mom or a Father caring for his disabled son. However, a Family Caregiver can take many forms. In some instances it can be a friend taking care of a friend or a neighbor caring for a neighbor. Whatever the relationship between the caregiver and the care recipient may be the common thread is that someone who has no medical training has stepped up to provide care for someone they love.

Some stats regarding Family Caregivers :

  • Between 45–65.7 million family caregivers provide care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged in the U.S [1]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female [2]
  • 20 hours per week is the average number of hours family caregivers spend caring for their loved ones while 13% of family caregivers are providing 40 hours of care a week or more. [3]
  • The AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving inform us that the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who cares for an older relative, but as many as 25% of all caregivers are millennials of both genders. [4]
Given that 29% of adults in the United States are acting as a caregiver in some capacity, it is quite likely that any given person will have this experience at least at some point during his or her lifetime [5]

The data is pretty astounding. It’s hard to imagine that so many people will experience being a caregiver.

To hear a genuine account of what it’s like to be a Family Caregiver check out my podcast. In episode #1 I speak to Robert, who cared for both of his parents and even spent time as a professional caregiver: https://anchor.fm/thefamilycaregiverpodcast/episodes/Family-Caregiver-Podcast-Episode-1-Robert-e16gh6/a-a2n2ss

Something that is rarely spoken about is the impact the role of caregiver has on the person providing care. I’ve learned this first hand speaking to and working with Family Caregivers and the stats only further confirm the alarming reality:

  • 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. About a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. [6]
  • 17% of caregivers feel their health in general has gotten worse as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. [7]

Unsurprisingly, adopting the role of caregiver with zero prior training is extremely taxing. Family Caregivers take on the role usually because they have to. The role of caregiver is either one that is lovingly opted into because nobody else would or there was no other choice due to the soaring costs of long term care.

With a clearer picture of what a Family Caregiver is, it’s worth discussing the most important part of the role; the care they are providing.

When it comes to the care being provided, there’s no simple explanation as it’s entirely dependent on what the care recipient needs. Care responsibilities can range from basic Actives of Daily Living care (feeding, cleaning, clothing, etc) to complex hands on care such as managing feeding tubes or administering treatment regiments.

Family Caregivers often learn as they go and rely on the healthcare professionals that are treating their loved one to teach them what to do.

26% of caregivers who received training for medical/nursing tasks were trained by a family member or friend, while 60% learned from healthcare staff. [8]

Reflecting on the common ailments impacting our population today provides a strong perspective into the care that’s being provided by Family Caregivers:

  • Parkinson’s: 1 million people affected today[9]
  • Alzheimer’s: 5.5 million people affected today[10]
  • 1 in 5 People have a disability in the US. Not all will require complex care, however, those with disabilities are routinely excluded from this discussion and it’s an extremely important portion of the population to consider. [11]
  • Approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes [12]

Separate from specific diseases, roughly 10,000 people turn 65 a day and thus enter into a part of life where long term care is most commonly required due to age related issues. The Population Bureau has estimated that the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent. [13]

It’s clear that the need for care is enormous and only growing. The work Family Caregivers are doing will continue to be an essential part of many millions of people’s lives. Thank you for reading! The next chapter in this series will discuss the long term care industry and what lead to the growth of the Family Caregiver role.

If you are or know a Family Caregiver please comment below! I’d love to connect