A caregiver is anyone who provides assistance to someone who is in need of care. This could involve caring for a spouse who has suffered a stroke, a child with muscular dystrophy, a mother-in-law with Alzheimer's disease, or a grandfather with cancer. Most caregivers are unpaid family members or friends who provide care on either a full- or part-time basis. It is estimated that 80 percent of caregivers provide caregiving assistance seven days per week, and the care usually involves personal care assistance and household maintenance chores.
Caregiving can be stressful and may contribute to serious illness and depression. Studies show that 16 percent of caregivers report that their health has worsened since taking on the caregiver role, and about half of caregivers who care for someone with Alzheimer's disease develop psychological distress. In addition, caregiving can result in new financial burdens, with 40 percent of caregivers incurring new financial expenses for care related products, services, and activities. It is estimated that 26 percent of caregivers spend up to 10 percent of their monthly income on caregiving activities.
The AMA has initiated an effort to address the burden of caregiving through the development of Web-based materials and information. We invite physicians, other health care professionals, and those involved in caregiving to find out more information about caregiving by visiting the our Caregiver Health Assessment section. You will find background information on caregiving and dementia, a caregiver self-assessment tool, and useful caregiver resources.
Family caregiving issues
Because family members provide the majority of care for persons with dementia, they are an essential resource for the patient and the health care system.
In addition to taking on the household chores, shopping, transportation, and personal care, 37 percent of caregivers are involved in giving medications, injections, and medical treatments to the person for whom they are providing care.
Caregiver self-assessment tool
This English- and Spanish-language questionnaire can be used by physicians to identify if the patient's caregiver is in need of supportive services.
Scoring and next steps
How to interpret scores on the Caregiver Self-Assessment Tool and take the appropriate next steps.