Comprehensive Look at Essential Facts and Statistics About Family Caregivers

Millions of seniors have caregivers to assist them with activities of daily living and other tasks. Most people providing caregiving to seniors are family members who provided this assistance for no compensation. The typical caregiver in this category is a spouse or adult child. In this article, we take a comprehensive look at essential facts and statistics about family caregivers in the United States.

What Is a Family Caregiver?

In basic terms, a family caregiver is someone who assists with the short-term or long-term needs of a parent, spouse, or other individuals in the family. People fulfilling this role are also referred to as informal caregivers or unpaid caregivers.

Overall Demographics of Family Caregivers and Care Recipients

53 million people in the United States provide unpaid care for family members and friends, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving. Nearly 42 million of these caregivers provide assistance to people who are aged 50 or older.

Characteristics of Family Caregivers

An overview of the characteristics of family caregivers is illuminating. We have collected some important statistics regarding family caregivers for your consideration:

  • Caregiver Gender: 61 percent are women, while 39 percent are men
  • Caregiver Age: 54 percent of family caregivers are age 50 or older, the average age of a family caregiver being just over 49 years old
  • Caregiver Race/Ethnicity: 61 percent of family caregivers are non-Latino white, 17 percent are Latinx or Latino, 14 percent are Black American, 5 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, and 3 percent are multiracial or another racial identity
  • Caregiver Marital Status: 54 percent of family caregivers are married, 21 percent are single and have never married, 8 percent are divorced, 7 percent are living with a partner, and 4 percent are widowed
  • Caregiver Employment Status: 61 percent are employed, while 39 percent are not employed
  • Caregiver Household Income: 36 percent have a net household income of less than $50,000, and 64 percent have a net income of $50,000 or more (the average household income of family caregivers is $67,500)
  • Number of Care Recipients: 76 percent care for one adult, while 24 percent care for two or more adults

Characteristics of Care Recipients

A review of the characteristics of care recipients is also revealing. Some of these key characteristics are:

  • Care Recipient Gender: 61 percent female while 39 percent male
  • Care Recipient Age: 46 percent of care recipients are age 75 and older (the average age of a typical care recipient is almost 69 years old)
  • Care Recipient Relation to Caregiver: 89 percent of care recipients are related to their caregivers by blood or marriage
  • Care Recipient Relationship to Caregiver: 42 percent of care recipients are a parent, 12 percent are a spouse or partner, 8 percent are a parent-in-law, another 8 percent are grandparents or grandparents-in-law, and 7 percent are siblings or siblings-in-law
  • Care Recipient Living Situation: 26 percent of care recipients live alone
  • Care Recipient Residence: 43 percent of care recipients live in their own homes, 40 percent of care recipients live in their caregiver’s household, 11 percent live in senior housing communities of some type (including assisted living)
  • Care Recipient’s Main Reason for Needing Care: 16 percent “old age,” 12 percent mobility issues, 11 percent Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, 6 percent cancer, 6 percent surgery or wound care, 5 percent mental or emotional illness or condition, 5 percent stroke, 4 percent diabetes, 4 percent feeble, falling, or stability issues, and 3 percent blindness/vision loss

What Tasks Do Family Caregivers Undertake?

Family Caregivers average about 24 hours of providing care each week. This number increases sharply to over 37 hours weekly when the care recipient lives with the caregiver. There are certain types of assistance that family caregivers typically provide to a care recipient that includes:

  • Assistance with instrumental activities of daily living
  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Assistance with medical care and nursing care

Assistance With Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Instrumental activities of daily living are defined as those activities that permit an individual to live independently in a community. Examples of activities of daily living include:

  • Cooking
  • House cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Medication management
  • Managing finances
  • Shopping
  • Transportation

99 percent of family caregivers provide assistance with instrumental activities of daily living. This breaks down as follows:

  • Transportation assistance (80 percent)
  • Assistance with grocery shopping (79 percent)
  • Help with housework (76 percent)
  • Help with meal preparation (64 percent)

Assistance With Activities of Daily Living

Activities of daily living are defined as fundamental tasks or skills that are required to care for oneself independently. Six identified activities of daily living are:

  • Personal hygiene or grooming
  • Dressing
  • Toileting
  • Continence
  • Transferring or ambulating
  • Eating

Sixty percent of family caregivers assist care recipients with at least one activity of daily living. The most common types of ADL support caregivers provide regarding activities of daily living are:

  • Help with walking and transferring (41 percent)
  • Help getting dressed (31 percent)
  • Bathing assistance (27 percent)

Providing assistance with incontinence care and toileting is typically one of the most physically and mentally challenging aspects of assistance provided by family caregivers. As seniors’ physical and mental abilities decrease, they tend to depend on their caregivers more and more for help with basic care needs like those discussed here.

Assistance With Medical and Nursing Care

Many family caregivers also provide what amounts to medical or nursing tasks for their care recipients. Medical or nursing tasks can include:

  • Administering medications
  • Giving injections
  • Tube feeding
  • Wound care
  • Catheter and colostomy care
  • Blood sugar testing
  • Monitoring vital signs

58 percent of family caregivers report helping their care recipients with these types of medical nursing care tasks.

Family caregivers provide an ever-increasing role in caring for older Americans. As Baby Boomers continue to advance into their Golden Years, the number of family caregivers is expected to increase significantly. In fact, between 2015 and 2020, the number of family members providing caregiver assistance increased between seven and eight million people.