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Caregivers Count Too! Section 2: Vital & Vulnerable — Defining the Family Caregiver

Who Are Family Caregivers?

An estimated 44 million Americans age 18 and older provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities who live in the community. Caregivers are varied in their characteristics, yet research on this increasingly visible group reveals some themes:

  • Women outnumber men (about two to one).
  • Most are middle-aged (35-64 years old) and married or living with a partner.
  • Most (83%) are relatives of the person they are caring for, including: daughters/sons, spouses, grandchildren, and siblings.
  • Rates of caregiving vary somewhat by ethnicity. Among the U.S. adult population (18+), about one-fifth (21%) of each of the non-Hispanic white and African-American populations are providing informal care, while a slightly lower percentage of Asian (18%) and Hispanic-Americans (16%) are engaged in caregiving.
  • About one in four (24%) caregivers live with or close to the person they are caring for and about four in ten (42%) are no more than 20 minutes away.
    About half of caregivers are employed at full-time jobs (48%).
  • The amount of care given on a weekly basis varies widely, from fewer than 8 hours (by nearly half) to more than 40 hours (by 1 in 5).
  • Caregiving goes on for a long time—an average of 4.3 years.

Source: National Alliance for Caregiving & AARP. (2004) Caregiving in the U.S. Bethesday, MD: National Alliance


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