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Successful Aging: What you need to know about caregiving

The month of November is National Caregiving Month. Caregiving is an equal opportunity phenomenon. According to former first lady Rosalynn Carter, there are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

President Clinton signed the first National Care Givers’ Month proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers each November. Subsequent presidents have done the same.

Take this brief quiz that may enhance your perspective on caregiving.

1. Formal and informal caregivers differ according to their compensation.

True. An informal caregiver is an unpaid individual such a spouse, partner, family member or friend. Formal caregivers are paid for their service, providing care in one’s home or in a daycare environment or a residential or long-term-care facility.

2. Each year, more than 53 million informal family caregivers provide the majority of support making it possible for older people and those with disabilities to live in their community.

True. One in five Americans provide family caregiving support which comes to 53 million caregivers. Their support includes assistance for activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting and dressing. Add to that grocery shopping and meal preparation, getting to doctor’s appointments, home maintenance and managing multiple medications.

3. In 2017, the annual contribution of unpaid care of older adults from family members was estimated to be valued at $100 billion.

False. The actual contribution of unpaid care is $470 billion. According to the National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers, the current U.S. system of long-term services and support could not function without the contributions of unpaid caregivers.

4. There is a gender divide between family caregivers with 50 percent male and 50 percent female.

False. Although there is a trend for more men to become family caregivers, 61 percent of family caregivers are women. Caregiving responsibilities often have a disparate impact on women’s financial security including their retirement.

5. The average age of an employed family caregiver is 46 years.

True. About 70 percent are women.

6. Among family caregivers, 25 percent suffer from depression.

False. A November 2021 study from insurance firm Genworth found that 42 percent of family caregivers experience depression, mood swings or resentment. Additionally, 30 percent reported sleep deprivation and 43 percent indicated their caregiving responsibilities have a negative impact on relationships with their spouse or partner.

7. Families spend on average $3,000 a year on out-of-pocket costs for caregiving.

False. It’s more like $7,000 that can have a long-term effect on caregivers’ health, relationships, mental and emotional well-being and finances. It even can affect family members’ ability to provide care for themselves.

8. The U.S. is considered number 2 in offering the best eldercare in the world.

False. The U.S. is number 6. Norway is first with acknowledging their strong sense of community and their offering of 100 percent pension coverage and financial security for older adults. Next is Sweden followed by Switzerland, Germany, Canada, the U.S. and then Great Britain.

9. About half of family caregivers are working.

False. It’s closer to two-thirds. Among family caregivers, 61 percent are also working other jobs. More than 1 in 6 work full-time or part-time in addition to assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend. Those that work at least 15 hours per week indicate their caregiving assistance significantly affected their work life.

10. Family caregivers provide care on average of about 25 hours per week.

True. Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care with nearly one in four spending 41 hours per week. The majority (82 percent) care for one adult; 15 percent care for two adults and 3 percent care for three or more adults.

So, what can each of us do to help and show appreciation to caregivers? Write a thoughtful card to say thank you. Make a meal and add some fresh flowers. Consider periodic visits to give the family caregiver some time off.

To quote former president Barack Obama in his 2014 Presidential Proclamation, “…we salute the people who play difficult and exhausting roles, and … recommit to lifting up these Americans as they care for their loved ones while protecting their dignity and individuality.”

Here’s to our unsung, selfless caregiving heroines and heroes. Stay well everyone and know kindness is everything.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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