Caregiving for Person with Alzheimer's Disease or a Related Dementia

Younger woman holding hands with elderly woman

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of a group of brain diseases called dementias. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease, like all dementias, gets worse over time and there is no known cure. Nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease destroys brain cells causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior that can be severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies, and social life. Eventually, it can affect one’s ability to carry out routine daily activities. Today, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is the fifth leading cause of death for those aged 65 years and older.

For more information, see www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figuresexternal icon.

What is known about caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia?

People with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are usually cared for by family members or friends. The majority (80%) of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are receiving care in their homes. Each year, more than 16 million Americans provide more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care for family and friends with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In 2019, these caregivers will provide an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care. Approximately two-thirds of dementia caregivers are women, about one in three caregivers (34%) is age 65 or older, and approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers, meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.

Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias provide care for a longer duration than caregivers of people with other types of conditions (79% versus 66%). Well over half (57%) of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias provide care for four years or more. More than six in ten (63%) Alzheimer’s caregivers expect to continue having care responsibilities for the next 5 years compared with less than half of caregivers of people without dementia (49%).

The demands of caregiving can limit a caregiver’s ability to take care of themselves. Family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and poorer quality of life than caregivers of people with other conditions.