Being a family caregiver is one of the most selfless jobs. One in five Americans is a family caregiver. This means more than 53 million people are providing unpaid care to another adult.
The prevalence of caregiving has risen to 19.2% in May of 2020, a marked increase from 16.6% in 2015. This is an increase of over 8 million adults providing care to a family member or friend age 18 or older, primarily driven by a significant increase in the prevalence of caring for a family member or friend who is age 50 or older, according to AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 Report.
An estimated 41.8 million adults are caregivers of others age 50+ in 2020, which is significantly higher than the 34.2 million in 2015.
Children, under the age of 18, are also caregiving, according to the report. Fourteen percent of unpaid caregivers is a child under age 18—so out of all caregivers of adults, 7% report the presence of a child caregiver. This means there are an additional 3.4 million youth caregivers helping care for others.
Caregivers are caring for two or more people also jumped. Now 24% of caregivers are caring for two or more people, which is a 6% increase from five years ago. These caregivers provide an average of 24 hours of care each week.
Caregivers of adults find themselves providing care for a longer time than they did five years ago. Almost 30% report providing care for more than 5 years, which is an increase of almost 5%, with the average timespan being 4.5 years.
Alarmingly, only 31% of people report having paid help or professional caregiver assisting them in caring for their loved ones at home. This means 69% of caregivers have no paid help.
Who are these family caregivers?
- 61% of caregivers report being non-Hispanic White (61% )
- 17% are Hispanic or Latino
- 14% non-Hispanic African American or Black,
- 5% Asian American and Pacific Islander
- 3% some other race/ethnicity, including multiracial
One in 10 is a student enrolled in college or other classes (11% ), while 9% have served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. Eight percent self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender2 (LGBTQ).
Who are they caring for?
- 89% of caregivers of adults care for a relative
- 81% of caregivers ages 18 to 49 care for someone age 50 or older
- 74% of caregivers ages 75 and older caring for a recipient age 75 or older, which is similar to what was seen five years ago
- 50% a parent or parent-in-law
- 12% spouse or partner
- 10% provide care to a friend or neighbor
- 8% grandparent or grandparent-in-law
- 6% adult child
Where are they caring for them?
40% of caregivers live together with their recipients, a proportion that has grown since 2015 (34%).
What are the health issues that are requiring care?
- 63% of care recipients have long-term physical conditions (up from 59% in 2015)
- 27% have emotional or mental health issues (up from 21%)
- 32% have memory problems (up from 26%), including 26% Alzheimer’s or dementia (up from 22% in 2015).
Caregivers are caring for people with increasingly complex conditions, often with multiple conditions. Caregivers reporting their recipient has 1.7 conditions categories on average (up from 1.5 in 2015).
What tasks are the family caregivers taking on?
- 99% Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
- 60% help with Activities of Daily Living
- 58% help with medical/nursing tasks
Caregivers are having financial issues
- 45% have experienced at least one financial impact because of caregiving
- 28% have stopped saving
- 23% have taken on more debt
- 22% used up personal short-term savings
- 19% have left bills unpaid or paid them late
- 18% high financial strain because of caregiving
- 15% borrowed money from family or friends
- 12% used up long-term savings
- 11% have been unable to afford basics like food
- 61% of caregivers report working
- 61% of caregivers experienced a work-related impact
- 53% go in late, leave early or take time off for caregiving duties
- 10% leave the workforce or retire early
Is there any good news?
Yes, caregivers are reporting overnight hospitalizations are trending down by 5%.
Additional COVID-19 Challenges
In 2020, the Caregiver Action Network is highlighting additional caregiving challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Caregivers are reporting additional financial issues because of reduced or eliminated employment, wanting to keep their loved ones home and out of facilities, isolation, technology issues and managing disease risk.
One major challenge is caregiver grief, which can be incredibly lonely. As people cannot visit and provide care as they used to, it can stimulate feelings of no longer being their primary caregiver. This can lead to feelings of unfinished business.
Frustration is another challenge. Routines are changed or turned upside down. Regulations seem to change moment-by-moment.
Help from professional home care companies is one solution.
National Family Caregivers Month
November is recognized at National Family Caregivers Month to shine a light on these unpaid caregivers. President Bill Clinton signed the first National Family Caregivers Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997 after the Caregiver Action Network, the National Family Caregivers Association, began highlighting the work of family caregivers in 1994.