According to the 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. report, an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months.  Who are these caregivers?  What do they do?  What are the effects of caregiving and how they can be supported?



Caregivers can be anyone - spouses, adult children, parents, siblings, neighbors, friends. Anyone who helps someone carry out the tasks of daily living, frequently enabling them to live more independently.  Most people are or will be caregivers at some point in their lives.  Statistics about who typical caregivers are can be found in the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report.  
But how do you know if you are a caregiver? 

Well, you might be a caregiver if...



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What Do Caregivers Do? 

Caregiving responsibilities vary greatly, depending on the situation.  For parents of a disabled child, caregiving is intense, hands on care from the moment of birth, with tasks and responsibilities changing as the child grows into adulthood.  For a person caring for an older adult, caregiving frequently starts slowly with things like daily phone calls to check up on the person, helping with housecleaning, laundry and shopping.  This grows into helping with medical appointments, medication management, dressing, grooming and even helping with medical procedures.  It can start with just a few hours a week and turn into a second "job."  Siblings are often left "in charge" while parents are at work, or into their adult life as they have developed a strong relationship with the person needing care.  In all cases, caregivers do whatever is necessary to help their loved one live and thrive.


The Effects of Caregiving

While caring for a loved one can be rewarding it can also have negative impacts on a person.  Caregivers often place priority on the person they are caring for and let their own physical and mental health decline.  They do whatever they feel is neccessary to care for their loved one, often sacrificing their own needs.  The 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. report gives a closer look at the effects of caregiving.

  • Physical Health - One in five caregivers reports a high level of physical strain resulting from caregiving and 22 percent of caregivers reported a decline in their health as a result of caregiving.  
  • Emotional Health - Four in ten caregivers report their caregiving to be highly stressful, and caring for a spouse or parent is more emotionally stressful than caring for another relative or non-relative.  Additionally, about half of those caring for someone with mental health issues or Alzheimer's/dementia reported increased emotional stress. 
  • Financial Strain - One in five caregivers reported financial stress as a result of caregiving.  Financial strain is twice as common for those who live with the person they are caring for.  Financial strain also increases the longer a person provides care. 
  • Employed Caregivers - Six in 10 caregivers are employed while caregiving, with over half working full time.   60% of these employed caregivers reportedat least one impact to their employment as result of caregiving such as cutting back on work hours, taking a leave of absence, receiving a warning about performance or attendance, or other such impacts.


How Can Caregivers Be Supported?

There is an array of ways caregivers need support to help them provide care and remain healthy themselves.  Information, education, respite, home care, assistive devices, counseling and support groups are all important in supporting caregivers.  When a caregiver is properly supported, placement in a long-term care facillity can be delayed.


Share Your Caregiving Story!

Connecting with other caregivers about your caregiving experience can be a fun, therapeutic and helpful activity.  Finding others in a similar situation who understand what life as a caregiver is like can relieve feelings of isolation that many caregivers experience.  If you are willing, please share your caregiving story below!


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