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AARP Research

Caregiving in the U.S. 2009

Caregiving is still mostly a woman's job and many women are putting their career and financial futures on hold as they juggle part-time caregiving and full-time job requirements.  This is the reality reported in Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, the most comprehensive examination to date of caregiving in America. The first national profile of caregivers, Family Caregiving in the U.S. was published in 1997, and an updated version of the study, Caregiving in the U.S., was reported in 2004.

The sweeping 2009 study of the legions of people caring for younger adults, older adults, and children with special needs reveals that 29 percent of the U.S. adult population, or 65.7 million people, are caregivers, including 31 percent of all households. These caregivers provide an average of 20 hours of care per week. The 2009 reports also begin to trend the findings from all three waves of the study.

Key findings include:

  • While caregivers and care recipients continue to be predominately female (66%), they are approximately three years older now than their counterparts were five years ago. Among caregivers age 18 and older, the average age of today’s caregiver is 49, and the average age of today’s care recipient is 69.
  • Caregiving lasts an average of 4.6 years (including caregivers of children).
  • Although there has been a decrease in the number of hours of care provided in an average week, a higher proportion of caregivers report helping their care recipient get into and out of beds and chairs, assisting with housework, and preparing meals. There is also an increase in the proportion of caregivers who say they need help or information.
  • Caregivers say they have increased their use of supportive services, such as outside transportation services and respite services or sitters.
  • Approximately three-fourths of caregivers have worked while caregiving.  While this has remained consistent since 2004, there has been an increase in the proportion who say they have had to make a workplace accommodation because of caregiving.
  • Although most caregivers say they experience little physical strain, emotional stress, or financial hardship as a result of being a caregiver, there are indications that caregiving is becoming more emotionally stressful for some and that some are experiencing more financial hardship fulfilling this role than five years ago.


Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,480 caregivers age 18 and older, including oversamples of approximately 200 African Americans, 200 Hispanics, and 200 Asian Americans, between March 5 and June 17, 2009. The questionnaire was designed to replicate many of the questions posed in 1997 and 2004 as well as to explore new areas. For further information, contact Linda L. Barrett at 202-434-6197.

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