Taking care of a loved one can be an equally rewarding and stressful experience. Many family caregivers express that caregiving allows them to build a strong bond with the care recipient, and providing care gives them a sense of purpose.
Being an informal caregiver can also negatively impact financial and mental health.1 Most family caregivers work outside of the home while providing care, and some struggle to pay for regular expenses. Family caregivers are also prone to burnout without receiving support or being able to ask for help.
The resources in this guide are designed to help caregivers ease some of that burden. Accessing services, support groups, government programs, or online resources created to help caregivers is essential to taking on this role. You shouldn’t have to do this alone — let these resources help you take advantage of what’s out there.
A family caregiver takes care of an aging, ill, or disabled family member. This care can involve everything from simple tasks like checking the mail to 24-hour, constant care.2 Many family caregivers live with the care recipient, but some caregivers provide care from a distance, known as long-distance caregiving.
The type of care depends on the care recipient’s situation and the caregiver's availability. Some care recipients are more independent than others and can take care of daily needs on their own. Others require assistance with:
Some care recipients start off needing a lot of care and progressively get better — if they are recovering from an illness or injury, for example. Other care recipients gradually need more care for progressive diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Sometimes, family caregiving involves outside help from other family members or medical professionals. A family caregiver may also need to work or take care of children while balancing caregiving duties. Other relatives may need to pitch in and provide some care in these cases. There are also organizations, facilities, and medical providers who can step in to supplement family caregiving when needed. Arranging these interventions can often be a financial burden (see the “Support for family caregivers section” for information on financial assistance).
Family caregivers are also often given the additional responsibility of handling the care recipient’s legal, financial, medical, and end-of-life needs. A family caregiver does not just address daily care but sometimes becomes the decision-maker on the care recipient’s behalf.
Obviously, this can be a stressful and intense role. Juggling other responsibilities with caregiving can lead some caregivers to burn out or suffer other mental health issues. Many experts emphasize self-care and support networks to lessen the burden that some caregivers experience.
In 2020, the National Alliance on Caregiving (NAC) and AARP released their list of U.S. caregiving statistics.3 The report revealed that 53 million people in the U.S. characterize themselves as caregivers. This is up from 43.5 million in 2015, meaning that nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population now cares for a loved one.
Here are some more facts and stats from that report:
The report also breaks down the survey results based on demographic information and type of caregiver. For example, it states that the “typical” African American caregiver is 47.7 years old and cares for the care recipient in their home without assistance. About half felt forced to take on the caregiving role, but most feel it’s an overall rewarding experience.4 (The report uses the word typical in quotation marks to signify that these statistics are the results of this specific survey and may not be broadly true of all caregivers that fall into these categories.)
These reports are incredibly detailed, but here are a few highlights:
It’s important to remember that becoming a caregiver doesn’t mean that you instantly have the skills and know-how to assume the role effectively. It takes time, practice, and resources to ensure that you successfully care for your loved one. Luckily, many online and in-person resources are available to help you develop caregiving skills.
Many family caregivers may feel like they are alone in caring for their loved ones. The truth is that there are many services and professionals available to help assist you if you know where to look.
Some caregivers rely on other people, like relatives or friends, to help them with caregiving duties. Family caregivers may also consider support groups, transportation services, community programs, and social services to supplement care. You may even be able to obtain financial assistance through your employer or the government to ease some of the financial strain.
Browse the categories below to learn more about other forms of support available for family caregivers.
The mental health of family caregivers is essential.10 The responsibility of caregiving can be rewarding but also overwhelming, so caregivers must take care of themselves by getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, taking a break when they need it, and asking for help.11 Focusing on self-care can help family caregivers avoid burnout.
One effective way to take care of your mental health is through therapy. This can involve talk therapy or support groups with other caregivers. Online therapy offers a convenient way for caregivers to get help without being away from home. There are also many online resources for caregivers to help them cope with the stresses of providing care.
When we think of family caregiving, we might assume that the caregiver and patient live in the same household. But many loved ones provide care from afar. Long-distance family caregiving presents its own challenges, and family members may wonder how best to support the care recipient even if they can only visit or call. Many resources offer advice and guidance for long-distance caregivers.
It’s important to listen to the care recipient’s wishes and help them make decisions about their care. Often, family caregivers assume medical, financial, and legal responsibility for the patient.12 Having an open dialogue about things like money, medical care, and end-of-life requests may be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to help preserve the care recipient’s dignity.
Many caregivers may not be experienced in legal or financial issues and may need to seek help from professionals to feel comfortable caring for their loved ones in this way. Thankfully, online resources are available to walk caregivers through these processes.
The National Institute on Aging provides a long list of resources for caregivers regarding legal, financial, and medical issues:
There are many reasons why a loved one may need a caregiver. Sometimes, caregivers must help someone recover from an injury or illness. Caregivers may also be needed to help aging relatives or patients with illnesses or disabilities. It’s impossible to cover every scenario where a caregiver might be needed, but the links below provide resources for various caregiving needs.
While caring for someone with dementia can be rewarding, the disease's progressive nature can also lead to caregiver exhaustion and burnout.13 For this reason, there are many groups and resources devoted to helping caregivers. Studies have also shown that telehealth services greatly benefit dementia patients and caregivers since leaving home for appointments can add strain to providing care.14 Check out our Best Online Doctors guide for more information on your telemedicine options.
Innerbody uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2022, March 15). Caregivers. MedlinePlus. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/caregivers.html
Schulz, R., & Eden, J. (Eds.). (2016). Families caring for an aging America. The National Academies Press.
Caregiving in the US 2020. The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020, May 11). Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.caregiving.org/caregiving-in-the-us-2020/
The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020, May). The “typical” African American caregiver – AARP fact sheet. AARP. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://cdn.aarp.net/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/african-american-caregiver.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.006.pdf
The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020, May). The “typical” Asian caregiver – AARP fact sheet. AARP. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/asian-caregiver.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.007.pdf
The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020, May). The “typical” Hispanic caregiver – AARP fact sheet. AARP. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/hispanic-caregiver.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.011.pdf
The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020, May). The “typical” LGBTQ caregiver – AARP fact sheet. AARP. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/lgbtq-caregiver.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.012.pdf
The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020, May). The “typical” student caregiver – AARP fact sheet. AARP. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/student-caregiver.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.016.pdf
The National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020, May). The “typical” caregiver of a care recipient living in a rural area – AARP fact sheet. AARP. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/rural-caregiver.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.015.pdf
Dias Lopes da Rosa, R., Pedro Simões-Neto, J., Luiza Santos , R., Torres, B., Alice Tourinho Baptista, M., Ramos Santos Kimura, N., & Cristina Nascimento Dourado, M. (2020, February). Caregivers' resilience in mild and moderate Alzheimer's disease. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30499333/
Hughes, R. G. (Ed.). (2008, April). Supporting family caregivers in providing care. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2665/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, May 1). What is long-term care? National Institute on Aging. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-long-term-care
Ashrafizadeh, H., Gheibizadeh, M., Rassouli, M., Hajibabaee, F., & Rostami, S. (2021, June 24). Explain the experience of family caregivers regarding care of Alzheimer's patients: A qualitative study. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8264438/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, September 23). Telehealth: Improving dementia care. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/telehealth-improving-dementia-care