AARP is recognizing November/December as caregiving theme months.

AARP is striving to make it easier for older people to live independently and remain in their homes and communities where they prefer to be, surrounded by family and friends. By providing planning resources and additional forms of support to family caregivers, AARP hopes to create a country where people can continue to live in their homes and communities for as long as they choose.

To help achieve this, AARP is:

Supporting the millions of family caregivers who provide unpaid care to their loved ones with resources and tools.

Advocating for and providing better quality, affordable and accessible services to help older people live independently and the family caregivers who help them.

Definition of a Family Caregiver

A ‘family caregiver’ is defined as an adult age 18 or older who is providing unpaid short-term or long-term care to a parent, spouse, friend or other adult loved one who needs help with everyday activities and personal tasks such as transportation, managing finances, scheduling appointments, shopping, bathing, dressing, preparing meals, wound care and/or medication management.

Message Points

Family and friends are the backbones of America’s care system, providing the bulk of care for older people in the U.S. as they strive to live independently.

If you are not currently a family caregiver, at some point in your life you either will be a caregiver or need a caregiver.

Family caregiving is harder and more complicated than ever as families have increasing demands on their time.

Many family caregivers don’t think of themselves as caregivers — they see themselves as sons, daughters, spouses, and friends just doing what families do for each other.

Today, family caregivers are asked to carry out health care tasks that would make a first-year nursing student tremble (like wound care, tube feedings) without adequate training.

The job of caregiving that family members do for free can be harder than a job in the paid workforce.

Workplace policies that support employee caregivers can also benefit companies by enhancing productivity and enabling workers to keep up with their duties. Almost 3 out of 4 workers age 40 and older say that allowing work flexibility for caregiving would help improve work/life balance.

Employers can help employees who are family caregivers by providing flexible or teleworking arrangements, referrals to community resources, and affordable back-up care.

Statistics on Caregivers

Today, more than 1 in 5 Americans are caregivers. When looking at caregivers for adults only, there are almost 48 million Americans providing care to a family member or friend age 18 or older.2

The total estimated economic value of uncompensated care provided by family caregivers in 2017 was 470 billion. This surpasses the total combined value-added to the U.S. economy by the agriculture/forestry and mining sectors ($438 billion in 2017) and exceeds the combined value added to the U.S. economy by the education and arts/entertainment sectors ($460 billion in 2017).1

The ratio of potential family caregivers to the growing number of older people has already begun a steep decline. In 2010, there were 7 potential family caregivers for every person age 80 and older. By 2030, that ratio will fall sharply to 4 to 1 and is projected to drop further to 3 to 1 in 2050.1

On average, caregivers are 49-years-olds caring for 69-year-olds. 89 percent of caregivers take care of a relative, while just 10 percent care for a friend, neighbor, or other non-relative.2

Nearly half (46%) of caregivers are under the age of 50 and 54% are 50+.  Male caregivers are younger with 42% being under the age of 50.

Nearly three in ten (29%) caregivers are Millennials or Gen Z. Another 29% are Gen X, 34% are Baby Boomers and 7% are the Silent Generation.

Caregivers overall are becoming as diverse as the American population.1

6 in 10 caregivers report working while caregiving and the majority have experienced at least one work-related impact (61 percent).2

About 32% of family caregivers provide at least 21 hours of care a week, on average providing 59 hours of care weekly. This is in addition to their part- or full-time job.2

54% of caregivers expect to be caring for someone in the next five years. However, making plans for future care, such as instructions for handling financial matters, health care decisions, or living arrangements, is still not the norm among caregivers.2

According to recent research from Harvard Business School, nearly one in three workers said they quit their jobs for caregiving responsibilities across the lifespan.1

Emotional and Financial Impact of Caregiving

Family caregivers are at risk of emotional, health, and financial problems:

36% of caregivers report high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving.2

Family caregivers are at increased risk of chronic loneliness. 42 percent of family caregivers reported being lonely compared with non-caregivers (34 percent) in midlife and older ages .1

Those in high-intensity care situations more often feel alone (29 percent vs. 16 percent medium to low-intensity situations), as do those providing 21 or more hours of care (30 percent vs. 17 percent caring for 20 or fewer hours weekly).2

The financial impact on working caregivers who leave the labor force due to caregiving demands can be severe. A study estimated the economic cost of foregone earnings by family caregivers of older adults at $67 billion in 2013.1

In addition to forgone earnings, most family caregivers incur steep out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving. 78 percent of family caregivers incurred these costs as a result of caregiving.3

Caregiving can be an all-consuming experience that leaves the caregiver exhausted and lonely. But it can also be an enormously meaningful accomplishment.  Half of the caregivers (51%) feel their role gives them a sense of purpose or meaning in life.

African American Caregivers

14 percent of family caregivers in the U.S. report being non-Hispanic African American or Black.2

On average, African American caregivers are 47-years-olds caring for 64-year-olds.2

African American caregivers have been caring for 5.2 years on average. They report providing 31.2 hours of care weekly, helping with medical/nursing tasks. 5

African American caregivers report experiencing 2.4 financial impacts as a result of providing care — more than either non-Hispanic white or Asian caregivers — most commonly stopping saving, leaving bills unpaid or paying them late, or taking on more debt. 5

African American caregivers typically care for a parent, spouse, or grandparent. About half of African American caregivers feel they had no choice in taking on their role, but the majority find a sense of purpose or meaning in that role — more so than non-Hispanic white or Asian caregivers. 5

AARP Resources

AARP has tools, information, and support available for family caregivers. The AARP Family Caregiving Website ( provides an easy way to join an online community of other family caregivers, learn about local services, get helpful information, and connect with others who understand caregiving challenges.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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