The Top 5 Caregiver Facts Everyone Should Know: Recognizing & Celebrating Our Unsung Heroes

Recognizing & Celebrating Our Unsung Heroes

February isn’t just a month to think about those who give us the butterflies — it’s also a time to recognize caregivers! National Caregivers Day lands on Feb. 16th this year, but it should really be a year-round celebration with all the hard work that caregivers do day in and day out.

Caregivers are individuals who provide assistance with daily living activities (such as bathing, dressing, and shopping) and even medical needs for injured, ill, or disabled individuals. There are a few different types of caregivers, including professional caregivers and unpaid or informal caregivers.

Some of the various types of caregivers include:

  • Family or friend caregivers (such as individuals caring for a sick parent, a spouse, or a neighbor)
  • Professional caregivers (such as nurses, nurse aides, and hospice caregivers)
  • Volunteer caregivers

Caregivers can care for patients, clients, or loved ones in a variety of settings, including in the care recipient’s home or in a care facility such as a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or an adult day care center. Regardless of the type of care provider or the setting, the work of a caregiver can be grueling and is often a labor of love.

To recognize and honor the caregivers who dedicate their time and energy to caring for our community’s most vulnerable individuals, we decided to share a few caregiver facts that we thought everyone should know.

Top 5 Caregiver Facts

  1. More than 1 in 5 Americans (21.3%) are caregivers for an adult or child with special needs.

This data comes from the 2020 update of the “Caregiving in the U.S.” report by the AARP Public Policy Institute. This brings the total number of caregivers in the United States to 53 million, which is up from 43.5 million in 2015.

Here’s a further breakdown of the U.S. caregiver population, according to the report:

  • Nearly one in five (19%) are unpaid caregivers to an adult who has functional or health needs.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) provide care for more than one person, up from 18% of 2015.
  • More than a quarter (26%) provide care for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, up from 22% in 2015.
  • Family caregivers are from all different generations, including Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Z, Millennials, and Silent.
  1. The unpaid care provided by family caregivers is estimated to value $600B.

A 2023 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute titled “Valuing the Invaluable” estimated the economic value of the unpaid contributions provided by family caregivers. This was based on roughly 38 million caregivers putting in an average of 18 hours of care each week, adding up to about 36 billion hours of care at an average value of $16.59 per hour.

The $600B estimate is considered to be on the conservative side, as it only calculates hours of caregiving performed and does not account for family caregivers’ out-of-pocket expenses or lost wages associated with their role.

  1. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of family caregivers work either full-time or part-time and many also care for children

Nearly two-thirds of people who take care of family members or friends do so while working paid jobs, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute’s “Valuing the Invaluable” report. Not to mention, many family caregivers are juggling care of elderly parents or relatives with raising their own children, giving this group the name the “sandwich generation.”

Sandwich-generation family caregivers have been found to experience higher levels of financial
and emotional strain compared to other family caregivers.

  1. With increasing demand from America’s aging Baby Boomer population, there’s a shortage of direct care workers.

As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age (Americans age 65 and older are expected to surpass 80 million by 2040), so does the need for geriatric care. According to the CVS Health and Harris Poll National Health Project (as cited U.S. News & World Report), 57% of Americans said there are not enough professional caregivers such as health aides and nannies, and 51% shared that it is difficult to find professional caregivers.

Data shows that staffing levels for residential care and nursing home workers in 2023 were 8% lower than in 2020, as reported by U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, home healthcare providers say they are turning away more than a quarter of referred patients because of insufficient staffing levels. While the direct care workforce is projected to jump from 4.6 million in 2019 to 5.9 million in 2018 (according to the AARP Public Policy Institute), the industry also struggles with high turnover rates.

With this in mind, we should be doing everything we can to encourage professional caregivers to enter and remain in the industry while also boosting support for unpaid caregivers who may be forced to pick up the slack from professional caregiver shortages (or other barriers such as cost).

  1. Caregiving takes a physical, emotional, and psychological toll on the care provider.

The level of sacrifice by caregivers should not be underestimated. Caring for an ill, injured, or disabled loved one takes a lot of time and energy, and it can cause a great deal of hardship for the caregiver.

Family caregivers are known to experience challenges such as:

  • Financial and career challenges like lost income, reduced career opportunities, and lowered Social Security and retirement benefits from having to work less
  • Loss of personal freedom – 45% of family caregivers say they spend less time engaging in hobbies, and 39% say they see friends less
  • Mental health challenges – 49% of family caregivers say their mental health has suffered
  • Other health challenges – 34% of caregivers say they are struggling to prioritize their own health

(Sources: AARP Public Policy Institute, U.S. World & News Report)

Take a Moment to Give Recognition Where It’s Due

If you know someone who is a caregiver, make sure to show them some much-deserved appreciation. A few simple words of recognition and encouragement can go a long way. And if you’re feeling especially appreciative, you can also celebrate National Caregivers Day by giving them a card, some tasty treats, a gift, or an offer to help however you can (which may be especially needed for unpaid caregivers). Make sure to also mark your calendar for National Family Caregivers Month, which is in November.

At West Coast University, we want to give a big thank you to everyone who is currently acting as a caregiver as well as those currently training to enter into a care-focused role. Your hard work and dedication is not overlooked!

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.