Informal caregivers, who are caregivers not paid for their assistance, are generally family members or friends of individuals in need of long-term services and supports. They provide the majority of these services and assist in basic activities such as eating and bathing; household management activities such as shopping and meal preparation; other activities such as managing prescribed medications, attending medical encounters; and coordinating financial activities such as handling insurance and bills. Many of these informal caregivers also are often involved in managing complex health care and assistive technology activities at home.1
Almost 18 million Americans provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year.1 Although informal caregivers are diverse in terms of demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural characteristics, on average they are more likely to be women (62 percent) and middle-aged (50 percent are between 45-64 years). Caregivers provide an average of 75 hours of support per month, but there is great variability depending on the number of caregivers and the older person's level of need. More than half (54 percent) of caregivers spend more than 40 hours per week providing care to their loved ones.1 Almost two-thirds of people age 65 and older rely exclusively on informal care for their personal care needs. An additional 30 percent use a mix of both paid and unpaid care.