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What Does a “Typical” Caregiver Look Like? Four Startling Caregiver Facts

I love finding patterns and connecting the dots between pieces of information. It could be a part of why I created this site. When all the students in my statistics class couldn’t wait for the nun to stop the pain of a very tough class, I couldn’t get enough of it. The same is true for data around caregivers.

Nationally, caregivers are a very diverse group. However, there are enough similarities that it paints a picture of a “typical” caregiver in the US. I find this kind of information helpful (and hope you do too) because it gives me an idea of the group I am a part of and how each of our situations is similar, and different, from what others experience.

Recently, I conducted my own survey of 30 readers and others within my sphere of contacts who are caregivers. Although my data was slightly different, it supported the national caregiver data published in June 2015 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute. They conducted a national online survey with over 1,200 confirmed caregivers.

Here is their profile of a statistically average caregiver. In other words – if you took the averages of all the data, and put it together into one person, this is what that profile would look like.

Profile of a “Typical” Caregiver


The typical caregiver is a 49-year-old female, currently caring for a 69-year-old female relative who needs care because of a long-term physical condition.

The average age of my survey participants trended a little older (52% ages 55-64) and with more women. Our data included 91% female caregivers where the national data included 60% female caregivers.

She has been providing care for 4 years on average, spending 24.4 hours a week (68% help 20 hours or less; 32% help 21 hours or more).

The average length of time spent caregiving for my group was a little shorter with 48% with 1-3 years experience. And, our participants tended to spend less hours caregiving each week with an average of 33% spending 5 hours or less and 28% spending 5-10 hours a week. Additionally, 52% of our participants are caring for their mother (versus the national data that states 49% are caring for either parent) and 26% are caring for a friend or other family member.

The national caregivers typically help with 1.7 activities of daily living (ADLs; such as help with bathing and dressing) and 4.2 instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs; such as running errands or managing finances). They conduct medical or nursing tasks (such as wound care, giving injections, or managing medications) for their loved one. She is the primary, unpaid care provider and provides care without the assistance of paid help.

Although my survey didn’t capture the types of activity, I did ask about how regularly our caregivers provided care. Thirty percent are frequent visitors, providing care several times a week to daily, 30 percent visit several times a month and 21 percent live with their loved one.

She is typically employed and working full time (an average of 34.7 hours per week). This caregiver is likely married or living with a partner, and in very good or good health. She is a high school graduate or has taken some college courses, but does not have a degree. Her average household income is $54,700.

This caregiver usually cares for only one adult. That adult, the care recipient, likely lives either with the caregiver or very close by (within 20 minutes of the caregiver’s home). The care recipient typically has been hospitalized at least once in the past year.

Four Startling Caregiver Facts

There were four facts that really struck me from the AARP research.
  1. We’re providing lots of medical and nursing-type care:
    57% of caregivers assist with medical or nursing tasks like caring for wounds, giving injections, or managing medications.
  2. We’re unprepared for these medical and nursing tasks:
    42% of caregivers, who are providing medical and nursing-type care, have received no training or education for these tasks.
  3. Few medical staff are checking on the caregivers:
    Only 16% of caregivers have been asked by a doctor, nurse or social worker if they needed any help.
  4. Many caregivers feel like they had no choice:
    50% of caregivers self-reported that they felt that they had no choice but to step in to provide care.


What do these facts say to you? What do you find surprising (or not surprising)? How does your caregiving situation compare to that national average? Share your thoughts below or tweet them to @myhealthvoice #caregiverfacts.

About @susanharkema

Susan is the creator of MyHealthVoice.com, built upon her 20+ years in healthcare and her experiences as a caregiver and patient. She is a writer, speaker and advocate for people living with chronic or life limiting illness as well as their family and professional caregivers. Learn more - www.myhealthvoice/susanharkema/.

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