En español | Since at least 2000, presidents have designated November as National Family Caregivers Month to honor the more than 40 million caregivers across the country who support aging parents, ill spouses or other loved ones with disabilities who remain at home.
Adults of all ages are among the ranks of family caregivers, according to a 2015 study by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. More than a third of caregivers were ages 50 to 64, about a quarter were 35 to 49, and another quarter were 18- to 34-year-olds.
Perhaps most surprising as America's population ages: 7 percent of family caregivers were age 75 or older, a share that has gone up steadily in the past two decades. Often the recipient is a spouse with dementia or heart disease who needs a high level of care for 34 hours or more a week, and the caregiver has been providing that help for more than five years.
Caregivers by race, ethnicity
Non-Hispanic whites made up the bulk of the estimated 43.5 million family caregivers in the United States in 2015, but a lower percentage of this group serves in the role compared to other races or ethnicities. Here's how the numbers stack up.
- Hispanics: 21%
- African Americans: 20.3%
- Asian Americans: 19.7%
- Whites: 16.9%
Note: Too few Native Americans were surveyed for meaningful analysis.
Source: Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving
"These everyday heroes, living quietly among us in families and communities across the country, are the major source of long-term care in America,” President Bill Clinton said in his 2000 proclamation of National Family Caregivers Month. “By providing billions of dollars’ worth of caregiving services each year, they dramatically reduce the demands on our Nation's health care system and make an extraordinary contribution to the quality of life of their loved ones."
The benefit to society also can be an individual burden, borne silently.
Isolation issues. Although a majority of caregivers told AARP researchers in 2019 that they had a friend or relative available to confide in and have contact with socially, almost 1 in 10 said they had no one to talk to about private matters and 1 in 5 said they had no one to call for help.
Lots of balls in the air. Most family caregivers must juggle their home lives with working a paid job and meeting the needs of the relatives or friends in their care. More than 60 percent of the caregivers surveyed in 2019 were working and about the same percentage were married.
A labor of love. Almost half of family caregivers are adult children caring for their parents. About 1 in 5 are wives or husbands caring for their spouses.
The nonprofit National Family Caregivers Association has said it began in 1994 to promote the idea of a month to recognize what used to be called “informal” caregivers to raise awareness about their value, both psychological and monetary. Today the organization chooses an annual theme; 2019's is #BeCareCurious.