When Kim Shifren was 14, she became a caregiver to her mother, who had suffered a heart attack. Two years later, her mom had another heart attack, and two years after that, a third heart attack. Shifren spent most of her teen years acting as a caregiver.
Child caregivers in the United States are more common than you’d think, according to a new CNN story about Shifren and other caregivers. Experts estimate that there are at least 1.3 million caregivers between the ages of 8 and 18, according to the article.
Family caregivers come in many forms, from children like Shifren to middle-aged people in the “sandwich generation”–caring for both their aging parents and their youngsters at home.
Here’s a look at who family caregivers are in the United States:
- 29 percent of American adults served as family caregivers in the past year, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. That’s nearly 66 million people.
- Most caregivers are female–about 59 to 75 percent.
- About two-thirds of family caregivers work full-time.
- There are equal numbers of caregivers in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
- 5.7 million grandparents live in the same household with their grandchildren, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 2.4 million of them are the grandchildren’s primary caregivers.
- African American families have the most caregiving grandparents, at 52 percent.
- 906,000 households have a child caring for a sick sibling, parent, or aging relative.
- Many caregivers of older people are older themselves–63 is the average age of a person caring for someone over age 65.
- Nearly half of elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people provide caregiving to either their own families or families they choose to help.
- The number of caregivers is expected to rise. Two-thirds of the U.S. population expects that they will be caregivers at some point in the future.
- Between 5 and 7 million caregivers provide assistance from a distance, and that number is expected to double in the next 15 years.
Family caregivers can be of any age and any gender, and come from many different backgrounds.
Professional caregivers can provide respite care, also known as relief care, to family members or friends who are struggling to keep up with the demands of caregiving. Hiring a professional caregiver doesn’t mean you’re giving up — it just means you’re accepting some much needed help in a tough situation.
Are you a family caregiver? What’s your background? Is your situation reflected in the statistics above, or is your situation unique?