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Caring for a loved one can mean helping out with all aspects of life — including shopping.

spinner image Interior warehouse super store from view of shopping cart in store aisle.

A new AARP survey examining the buying patterns of caregivers found that most (93%) said they shopped for their loved one and about three-quarters (73%) used at least some of their own money to pay for items. The poll comprised a nationally representative sample of the 48 million adults in the U.S. who provide unpaid care to an adult family member, friend, or neighbor—collectively known as family caregivers regardless of familial relation.

Groceries were most often purchased, followed by household basics and toiletries, according to the survey. Caregivers spent the most money on groceries, specialized medical equipment, and car-related items.

Most caregivers bring care recipients along to shop at least some of the time (39%) or often (20%), yet 40% rarely or never do. Notably, while most make their purchases in person, many face obstacles in stores and are turning online to shop.

Some said caregiving responsibilities made it harder to shop because it was difficult to afford everything needed (40%). Other prominent challenges: finding time to go to the store (36%) and stores not making it easy to bring the care recipient (28%). Among the sources of caregiver worries when shopping with their loved ones was potential exposure to illness, inadequate parking, and lack of seating in stores.

While 70% of caregivers polled said they prefer to shop in person (to be able to see products and not wait on delivery), 69% sometimes or often buy items online for their care recipients (lured by free shipping, saving time, and avoiding lines). About half (47%) pick up items in-store when ordering online.

Prioritizing the caregiver market can benefit retailers, the AARP report found. Three-quarters of adult caregivers shop for themselves when out buying for their loved ones.

What can stores do to better cater to caregivers and their loved ones?

Respondents most often suggested the need for a sanitary environment, more seating, parking for caregivers, longer store hours, and the availability of helpful pharmacists. Other ideas included having special hours, wider aisles to accommodate wheelchairs, low-stimulation sensory environments, improved restroom facilities, and availability of transportation to the store.

Methodology

The AARP survey was conducted in June and July of 2023 by phone and online. The sample of 1,824 unpaid caregivers ages 18 and older was balanced by gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, region, and AARP Membership.

For more information, please contact Alessandra Raimondi at araimondi@aarp.org. For media inquiries, please contact External Relations at media@aarp.org.