Background Paper

No. 84

Family Caregivers: The Primary Providers of Assistance to People with Functional Limitations and Chronic Impairments
January 11, 2013


Carol V. O'Shaughnessy, MA


An extensive body of research conducted over the past several decades has documented that family or other unpaid caregivers provide the majority of care to people who need assistance because of functional limitations or multiple and complex chronic conditions. Families play a central role not only in assisting impaired family members with personal care needs, but also in helping them coordinate health care and supportive services, and, increasingly, providing and/or supervising home-based medical care. This paper presents background information on family caregiving, briefly describes federal programs that provide direct assistance to caregivers, and discusses possible future policy and practice directions.

Related Materials

"National Spending for Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS), 2012," (The Basics, March 27, 2014).

See also, from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), "Patients and Informal Caregivers," chapter 6 in Retooling for an Aging America, Building the Health Care Workforce, (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008).

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