02/02/2015 05:38 EST | Updated 04/04/2015 05:59 EDT

7 Surprising Facts About Caregivers

Kohei Hara via Getty Images

By: Megan Jones

It's always a good time to honor and recognize the spouses, family members and friends who dedicate countless hours to caring for their loved ones.

Let's raise awareness of the distinct challenges they face.

North America is home to millions of family caregivers. On top of having tremendous fortitude, they're an interesting bunch. Check out our list below for some fascinating facts about caregivers.

1) They come in the millions: In Canada, there are an estimated 4 to 5 million people caring for a family member with a long-term health issue. In the U.S., the number is even higher--65 million people.

2) There's still a gender divide: Both in Canada and the States, the majority of caregivers are women between the ages of 45 and 64.

3) Numbers are higher thanks to Alzheimer's: More than 15 million family caregivers are providing care to people with Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. alone.

4) They're worth a LOT: Canadian caregivers provide $5 billion worth of unpaid labour to the healthcare system. They cover more than 80 per cent of the care needed by people with long-term illnesses.

In the U.S., again, the numbers are much higher. Annually, family caregivers provide close to $400 billion in "free" care. That's more than total Medicaid funding, and two times as much as home care and nursing home services combined.

5) It's not just adults:1.4 million American kids aged 8 to 18 care for an adult relative. Luckily, most aren't solely responsible!

6) They live longer: While caregivers have a higher risk of experiencing health issues like depression, anxiety, chronic illness or stroke, a recent Johns Hopkins study of 3,500 family caregivers found that those who cared for a chronically-ill loved one had an 18 percent survival advantage over non-caregivers. Over the course of the six-year study, caregivers were found to live nine years longer.

7) It helps to self-identify: In the U.S., more than 90 percent of family caregivers become proactive and start looking for resources and developing skills after they have self-identified.

For more information, visit America's Caregiver Action Network, or the Canadian Caregiver Coalition north of the border.

This story was originally published on, a website for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and dementia. For more tips, answer and support, visit the site here.


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