Family and Other Unpaid Caregivers and Older Adults with and without Dementia and Disability

Catherine Riffin, Peter H. Van Ness, Jennifer L. Wolff, Terri Fried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objectives: To estimate the number of caregivers providing assistance to community-dwelling older persons with and without dementia and with or without substantial disability; to describe the characteristics of caregivers and care recipients in these groups; to characterize the health-related tasks that caregivers provide; and to estimate associations between the numbers of tasks and caregiver burden. Design: Nationally representative surveys of caregivers and older adults in the United States. Setting: 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study and National Study of Caregiving. Participants: Community-dwelling older adults and their family caregivers, who were selected on the basis of having assisted with mobility, self-care, household activities, transportation, or medical tasks. Measurements: Caregiver burden (emotional, physical, financial difficulties) and restrictions on social participation. Results: Although much larger proportions of older adults with dementia and disability (98.4%, n = 1.0 million) and dementia but not disability (95.5%, n = 1.3 million) received caregiving assistance, the largest absolute number of individuals receiving assistance were older adults without dementia or disability (4.0 million). Within each caregiver group, caregivers provided assistance with at least one task across domains of activity of daily living and instrumental activity of daily living–related assistance (>98%), health systems logistics (>70%), and health management (>50%). There was a significant linear association between number of tasks provided and risk of burden in virtually all caregiver groups and domains of assistance. Conclusion: Caregivers of care recipients without dementia or disability accounted for the largest absolute number of helpers. These caregivers, similar to caregivers of care recipients with dementia or disability, delivered a broad spectrum of health-related tasks and experienced caregiver burden and restrictions on social participation. Findings support the need for interventions that address the needs of caregivers who have not typically been defined as high risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1821-1828
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • caregiver burden
  • dementia
  • disability
  • family caregiving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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