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Family Caregivers of the Elderly

The Center is pleased to work collaboratively with the Families and Work Institute on their study, Family Caregivers of the Elderly.

The purpose of the Family Caregivers of the Elderly Project is to investigate the impact of the work and the medical/caregiving environments on the family caregiver's experiences. We are exploring the impact as it is experienced at work, in medical settings, in families’ communities, and at home (both during and following the caregiving experience).

This unique study design poses compelling questions and will yield findings that are expected to contribute to the understanding about the experience of providing familial care to an older adult. Goals of the study include:

  • To raise awareness.
  • To move the national dialogue about familial caregiving further.
  • To promote changes in practice and policy.


There is no question that the population of America is aging: at the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth was 47, but in 2000 it had soared to about 77 and is expected to continue to rise. Likewise, the workforce is aging. In 2000, 13% of the workforce was older than 55; by 2025, that number is expected to increase to 20%.

At the same time, the prevalence of families who care for their elderly relatives is also increasing. Many of these caregivers have responsibilities for paid work, as well. Among wage and salaried employees in the US workforce in 2008, 43% men and women alike have provided regular care for an elderly parent or relative 65 years or older within the past five years. AARP and the National Alliance of Caregiving estimates that there are 44.4 million caregivers in the general population who provide unpaid care to a family member over 18, representing 21% of all households, with 80% of the care recipients being 50 years old or older. Looking toward the future, it is anticipated that the smaller families of today will mean that there will be fewer relatives to provide this kind of care in the coming decades.

The demands of and resources for elder care differ from other forms of family caregiving (such as the care of dependent children):

  • Elder caregiving is frequently unpredictable, making it particularly difficult for employed caregivers to respond to emerging needs in a timely fashion unless work environments are sufficiently flexible and caregiving environments are prepared to accommodate the constraints experienced by working caregivers.
  • It is often episodic, varying from week to week, month to month. Sometimes, it requires little or no face-to-face interaction between the caregiver and elder, whereas at other times nearly round-the-clock presence is required.
  • Increasingly, elder care is provided (at least partially) from a distance. This augments the importance of timely and accessible communication processes between the caregivers and medical professionals that are effective for the caregiver.

key research questions

  • What is the impact of the work and the healthcare environments on the family caregiver (at work, in medical settings, and at home) during and following the caregiving experience?
  • How does working in an effective flexible workplace affect the caregiver’s experiences and health during and following caregiving?
  • What institutional supports for the work of family caregivers would contribute both to the quality of care of elders and to the well-being of their family caregivers?
  • How do the caregiving experiences of over 50 year olds differ from the experiences of under 50 year olds, and what is the impact of these differing experiences on the caregiver during and after caregiving?
  • How do the caregiving experiences affect workers’ assessments of their work and non-work lives, particularly in terms of continued employment?
  • How are the relationships between caregivers and their supervisors at work affected by caregiving?




Individuals/organizations interested in the Family Caregivers of the Elderly Project, or to schedule a conversation with any of the Center's team, please contact:

617-552-9195 |


family caregivers of the elderly project team

Kerstin Aumann, PhD
Senior Research Associate
Families and Work Institute
James (Terry) T. Bond
Vice President for Research
Families and Work Institute
Melissa Brown, MSW, PhD
Adjunct Faculty
Graduate School of Social Work, Boston College
Ellen M. Galinsky
President & Co-Founder
Families and Work Institute
Kelly Sakai
Program Manager
Families and Work Institute