At least 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult or child, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregiving may involve shopping, housekeeping, providing transportation, feeding, bathing, toilet assistance, dressing, walking, coordinating appointments and medical treatments, or managing a person’s finances. To provide unpaid care is often an act of love and devotion, but it can also be a tremendous drain on one's physical and psychological resources.
Women are much more likely to take on the caregiver role, although many men do it as well. Their patients are loved ones, most often a parent, spouse, or child (of any age) with special medical needs. Caregivers frequently feel on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which can cause great stress and anxiety. Caregivers must pay particular attention to their own needs, or they risk burning out and being of no use to their loved ones. One of the most influential factors in a family’s decision to move an ailing relative to a long-term care facility is the caregiver’s own physical health.