Providing care for an aging loved one can be both difficult and rewarding. Currently, over 41 million Americans offer unpaid care to a relative or friend, and this number continues to grow as the population ages. These caregivers often experience burnout — a state of emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion — as a result of their caregiving duties. Learn more about the risks of burnout across demographics, as well as potential costs and solutions.
According to our research team’s analysis of the latest available data:
Read on for breakdowns of caregiver demographics, prognoses, costs, and more.
Approximately 41.8 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 and over, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the 2020 AARP report Caregiving in the U.S., which contains responses from a sample of 1,204 family caregivers.
The average family caregiver is 50 years old; however, 20% of caregivers are over 65. Women make up 61% of caregivers, and men make up 39%.
Caregivers come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds:
Family caregivers also span multiple generations:
Caregivers, both paid and unpaid, are at risk of burnout due to the stressful demands of their duties. The Cleveland Clinic defines caregiver burnout as “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.”
Caregivers face an increased risk of developing additional health problems. According to Blue Cross Blue Shield’s report on the impact of caregiving on 6.7 million of its subscribers, caregivers are at a higher risk for the following types of mental and physical health problems:
Of the family caregivers surveyed by The Archangel National Caregiver Survey, as cited in Blue Cross Blue Shield’s report, 57% reported high levels of stress, anxiety, and/or depression. According to this same survey, caregivers often use coping mechanisms that have ill effects on their health, as noted:
Caregivers, both paid and unpaid, are at risk of burnout due to the stressful demands of their duties. Johns Hopkins Medicine cites the following as leading causes of a caregiver’s burnout:
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The NAC and AARP note that family caregivers spend an average of 22.3 hours a week providing care. About 30% of family caregivers provide more than 21 hours of care each week, and 19% spend more than 41 hours on their caregiving duties. Of both of these groups of family caregivers, 24% care for more than one adult.
Family caregivers may also feel overworked due to fewer available paid caregivers, a result of post-pandemic shortages in the direct care workforce, according to AARP’s 2023 report Valuing the Invaluable. Family caregivers are not only putting more hours towards caregiving — they’re also offering higher-intensity care.
Balancing work or a “day job” also adds to the burden of family caregiving. Employed caregivers spent an average of 20 hours per week on caregiving, while unemployed caregivers spent an average of 29 hours per week, according to research conducted by Tufts Medical Center, Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers. In a 2023 update to the Valuing the Invaluable report, AARP noted that 61% of family caregivers were employed full- or part-time.
Paid, full-time professional caregivers are also overworked. Each state has its own laws regarding minimum wage and overtime, but it’s common for many live-in caregivers to be unpaid during the hours that they’re asleep or eating, even though they may still be working, according to labor research on caregivers.
Widespread statistics are difficult to find for paid caregivers because of the high turnover and differences between state regulations. In some states, such as New York, caregivers can legally work a 24-hour shift while only being paid for 13 hours of work.
Lower-income households and family caregivers who were paid hourly were more likely to experience some financial hardships, according to the NAC and AARP. Age also plays a role. Caregivers who cared for an adult aged 50 to 64 reported higher financial strain than those taking care of an older senior. Caregivers under the age of 50 also reported high levels of financial stress.
AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report highlights the following effects on family caregivers:
Additionally, family caregivers are more likely to see negative effects on their jobs and related benefits. The Family Caregiver Alliance notes that in addition to lost wages, caregivers have reduced retirement savings and Social Security benefits.
Paid, professional caregivers also experience financial strain. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) noted that 4.5 million people care for seniors in nursing homes, hospitals, and at home. By 2028, an expected 1.1 million jobs will be added in this field due to an increasing senior population and decreasing availability of family caregivers. Many caregivers leave the field due to low pay, poor benefits, and limited opportunities for career advancement.
A wide range of factors can affect a caregiver’s experience.
The older the caregiver is, the more time they devote to caregiving. The Family Caregiver Alliance reported that adults age 25 to 44 spent an average of 19.3 hours per week on caregiving duties, compared to 25.8 hours for adults between the ages of 45 and 54. Caregivers working more unpaid caregiving hours are also more likely to experience a higher burden of care.
Generational groups experience strain differently, according to AARP:
Across different racial and ethnic groups, caregivers report different strains:
Women and men experience the effects of caregiving differently:
Additionally, 9% of caregivers throughout the country are members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to AARP. These caregivers are more likely to face unique challenges, whether they’re caring for a partner or an older family member.
The average size of a family is shrinking, leaving fewer potential caregivers in a family. The AARP Public Policy Institute notes that in 2010 there were an average of 7.1 people within a senior’s extended family able to step into the role of family caregiver. By 2030, that number will shrink to 4.1.
Seniors who are 65 or older will outnumber children under the age of 18 by 2034, according to AARP. This may lead to a higher degree of caregiving overburdening. The Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report from AARP also notes that 37% of caregivers share a residence with their care recipient, while 46% of care recipients live in their own residence. Caregivers who live with their care recipient report more hours spent caregiving and a higher number of caregiving tasks.
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One in three family caregivers reports an annual household income of $50,000 or less, according to NAC and AARP findings. Caregivers with an income below this threshold are more likely to share a residence with their care recipient, while those with a higher income are more likely to have their care recipient live in a care facility.
Additionally, caregivers with an income of less than $30,000 are more likely to have a care recipient with multiple conditions to care for, including behavioral, emotional, or mental health conditions.
The Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report found that 27% of caregivers with a high school education or less are more likely to rate their health as fair or poor, compared to 17% of caregivers with some college education. Additionally, 18% of caregivers with some college education report a higher financial strain compared to 12% of caregivers with a college degree.
Education also influences expectations. An estimated 64% of people with a college degree thought they would have some caregiving responsibilities in the future, compared to 53% of people with less education. This ability to prepare and plan ahead may ease stress.
As a result of financial stress, 7% of caregivers reported moving to an apartment or a less expensive home. About 2% of caregivers dealt with eviction or foreclosure, as noted by the NAC and AARP.
Depression, anxiety, and fatigue are common symptoms of caregiver burnout, according to Cleveland Clinic.
While emotional symptoms are common, burnout can also include the following physical symptoms:
To prevent burnout, caregivers can try several techniques:
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