Family caregivers


Of the 65.7 million U.S. caregivers, 3.9 million care for only child recipients, 48.9 million care for only adult recipients, and 12.9 million care for both child and adult recipients, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. A 2009 report from the Alliance also shows that 16.8 million unpaid caregivers provide care to a child under the age of 18 with a special need. In 2008, 9.9 million family members, friends and neighbors provided unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia (Alzheimer’s Association, 2009).

Thoughtful manFamily caregivers often provide care over several years. Two-thirds of family caregivers reported providing care for a year or more while 37 percent said they provided care for one to four years. Another 26 percent have been caregivers for more than four years (Opinion Research Corporation, 2005). Caregivers of children are also less likely than caregivers of adults to be caring for just one person (National Alliance for Caregiving, 2009).

Family caregivers operate as extensions of health care systems performing complex medical and therapeutic tasks and ensuring care recipient adherence to therapeutic regimens. They operate as home-based “care coordinators” and personal advocates for care recipients. As health care costs and utilization continue to rise, individuals facing physical, mental or behavioral challenges are increasingly dependent on the ability of family or other informal caregivers to operate competently as formal health care providers. Yet, despite their important function in our society, caregivers do not receive adequate training, preparation, or ongoing support from health care systems.


Alzheimer’s Association (2009). Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 5, (3).

National Alliance for Caregiving (2009). Caregiving in the U.S. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from

National Alliance for Caregiving (2009). Caregiving in the U.S.: Companion Report of those caring for Children with Special Needs. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from

Opinion Research Corporation (2005). Attitudes and Beliefs about Caregiving in the United States: Findings of a national opinion survey. Opinion Research Corporation.