Survey Explores Mental and Physical Health Effects of Caregiving

Rear view photo of caregiver with hair in bun standing next to person in wheelchair, hand on their shoulder39.8 million Americans (16.6%) provide unpaid care to a loved one, according to a 2015 report from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Caregiving is known to be emotionally, physically, and financially taxing work, and it can lead to depression, anxiety, and family conflict.

One 2017 study found, for example, that when caregivers are stressed, care recipients are more likely to end up in the emergency room. Caregiver sadness and fatigue also increased Medicare costs.

Results from the latest National Poll on Healthy Aging survey show that 78% of unpaid family caregivers find their work stressful. The survey, a project of the University of Michigan, asked people who cared for family members with dementia about their experiences providing care.

Caregiver Health: How Caregiving Challenges and Reward Caregivers

The survey gathered data on a nationally representative poll of 2,131 caregivers for a person with dementia. To gather more information about the effects of caregiving, researchers looked at 148 survey participants between 50 and 80 years old who provide care to a loved one. Most caregivers were women under 65 providing care to a parent.

Although 85% of caregivers said caregiving was rewarding, caregivers also reported they often struggled to meet their obligations. Sixty-six percent said caregiving undermined their ability to care for themselves or participate in their daily activities. The amount of stress associated with caregiving affected the extent to which caregivers said caregiving was rewarding. Forty percent of those who called caregiving “very stressful” said it was not rewarding.

Twenty-seven percent of caregivers reported neglecting their own health. Just 1 in 4 said they had used caregiver resources, though 41% expressed interest in such support. This suggests a significant gap between the needs of caregivers and their ability to access supportive resources.

Some caregivers were concerned due to feeling as if they were unable to provide adequate care, and 14% expressed concerns about their ability to provide care due to mental or physical health issues.


November 2017 Report: Dementia caregivers – Juggling, delaying, and looking forward. (2017, October 24). National Poll on Healthy Aging. Retrieved from

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  • Marguerite

    October 28th, 2017 at 10:27 AM

    This is a job that largely goes unrecognized and unappreciated, and yet it can take a real toll on the lives of those who commit to doing it for a loved one. You fail to have any time left for you anymore. Everything that you do is usually done for the good of someone else, never yourself. It is tiring and frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. It’s just that there are always some days that one will definitely outweigh the other.

  • Barb

    October 30th, 2017 at 11:37 AM

    It isn’t always going to be a drain.
    There are some folks who will find this work both challenging and rewarding at the same time.
    It gives them a purpose in life that might not have previously been there.

  • Newport Home Care

    October 30th, 2017 at 9:24 PM

    I found it to be a great survey after I read your article. Dementia affects nearly one million Americans and progresses with age. There is no known cause or cure for this illness, but it can be managed with medication. You can also help the patient by encouraging them to get a proper exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • jackson

    October 31st, 2017 at 6:57 AM

    There will always be concerns over whether you are doing the right thing or if there is anything that you could be doing differently to do the job a little bit better. But my mantra is that you have to trust in the fact that you are doing the very best job possible, and you are not going to let something happen unless it is simply beyond your control. I don’t know of anyone who cares for someone who doesn’t in the end think that they are going to do the very best job possible for that person. Otherwise, if this is not how you approach the job, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

  • Francie

    November 7th, 2017 at 2:18 PM

    My mother in law loved her job as a nurse but finally had to give up her full time job to become a full time caregiver the her husband when he got too sick.
    He wouldn’t really let anyone else do things for him anyway, but I did in many ways feel bad for her because she loved her work but she sacrificed all of that to be able to give herself to him one hundred percent.
    I know that she doesn’t regret the time that they spent together or the things that she did for him and I know that shoe would do it all over again.
    But I do feel that now that he is gone she has in many ways lost her sense pf purpose on life. It makes me concerned for her.

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