Study: Most Adult Caregiving Doesn’t Involve Dementia

A new study from the Yale School of Medicine found that caregivers who help adult family members, friends or neighbors are taking on a wider range of tasks than previously believed.

But while “caregiving” may immediately bring to mind people with dementia and major physical disabilities, the Yale study noted that many caregivers are helping seniors who do not have those conditions. Nevertheless, many study participants reported that caregiving does take a toll on their lives.

Researchers said an estimated 6.6 million older adults across the country “receive some form of living assistance in their communities,” mostly performed by family, friends and neighbors.

Lead author Catherine Riffin said in a news announcement of the study, “The big take-home was the largest absolute number of older adults who are getting help are people without dementia or disability. That’s important because this group has been largely overlooked in prior research.”

Researchers said caregiving tasks covered a much wider range of activities than commonly thought. In addition to helping to maintain a household by shopping for groceries and cleaning homes, caregivers also transport seniors to medical appointments, schedule medical appointments, manage prescriptions and medications, and monitor seniors’ diets.

“Those caring for adults with dementia and disability reported the most burden, but nearly half of those assisting adults with less serious issues also said caregiving took a toll,” the announcement of the study said.

“It’s an emotional and physical burden, and also compromises their participation in enjoyable activities,” Riffin said in describing what many caregivers experience.

The study’s other authors were Peter H. Van Ness, Jennifer L. Wolff and Terri Fried. The study was supported by the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at Yale School of Medicine and by grants from the National Institute on Aging.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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