What is caregiving?

November is National Family Caregivers Month and we at the COAPS Institute want to participate in a conversation about caregiving by publishing a series of blogs.  This first blog discusses caregiving basics and shares some facts about caregiving. 

Caregiving is providing support to someone who is unable to care for his or herself.  This support may vary from helping someone with grocery shopping to bathing or  attending doctor’s appointments to advocate for a loved one.  A family caregiver is someone who supports a relative and who is usually providing unpaid, “informal” care. 

Family caregivers, most often women, provide over 75% of the caregiving support in the United States.  An economic value estimate conducted in 2007 showed that family caregivers’ unpaid support equaled as much at $375 billion dollars!  Family caregiving is rewarding, but it may also be stressful.   Over the next few weeks we will be sharing resources and stories to hopefully help caregivers not feel alone and to remind them to address their own self-care.  

Below are some facts about caregiving in the United States.  These facts are taken from studies and reports that have been conducted about caregivers.  The source for each fact is included in parentheses and a list of sources, including the Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving website, is found below.

  • The "typical" U.S. caregiver is a 49-year-old female currently caring for a 69-year-old female relative who needs care because of a long-term physical health condition.  The “typical” caregiver has been providing care for an average of 4 years, spending 24.4 hours per week providing care.  The caregiver is typically employed, working full time, and is likely married or living with a partner (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2015).
  • Caregiving can last from less than a year to more than 40 years. In a 2003 study, caregivers were found to spend an average of 4.3 years providing care. Older caregivers (50+) are more likely to have been caregiving for more than 10 years (17%) (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2004).
  • Most caregivers live near the people they care for. Eighty-three percent of caregivers care for relatives, with 24% living with the person who receives care, 61% living up to one hour away, and 15%—or about 7,000,000 caregivers—living a one- to two- hour drive or more away (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2004).
  • Studies show that ethnic minority caregivers provide more care than their white counterparts and report worse physical health than white caregivers (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2004).
  • Half (53%) of caregivers who said their health had gotten worse due to caregiving also said the decline in their health affected their ability to provide care (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2006).
  • Caregivers said they do not go to the doctor because they put their family’s needs first (67% said that is a major reason), or they put the care recipient’s needs over their own (57%). More than half (51%) said they do not have time to take care of themselves and almost half (49%) said they are too tired to do so (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2004).
  • Caregivers report having difficulty finding time for one’s self (35%), managing emotional and physical stress (29%), and balancing work and family responsibilities (29%) (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2004).
  • The Family Caregiver Council’s website provides information and resources to support family caregivers including information about technology, hiring help, housing, finances, transportation and self-care.

Check back next week for a discussion about how caregiving has changed over time, as well as stories from caregivers!  If you have caregiver stories you would like to share or if you would like to contribute to the COAPS Institute blog please feel free to e-mail us at hpearson@upenn.edu!


Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 http://www.caregiving.org/caregiving2015/

Comparison of Informal Caregiving by Black and White Older Adults in a Community Population http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2000.tb03872.x/full

Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving https://www.caregiver.org/

Family Caregiver Council http://familycaregivercouncil.com/