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American Time Use Survey
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Eldercare in 2011

Eldercare can involve a range of care activities, such as assisting with grooming and feeding, preparing meals, arranging medical care, and providing transportation; it also can involve providing companionship or being available to assist whenever help is needed, and therefore can be associated with nearly any activity. Eldercare providers are those who give unpaid care to someone over the age of 65 who needs help because of a condition related to aging.1 The 2011 American Time Use Survey for the first time collected information about eldercare providers and the time they spent providing care.

Who provided eldercare?

In 2011, an estimated 39.8 million people in the United States, or 16 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population age 15 and over, were eldercare providers. A majority (56 percent) were women.

Among the civilian noninstitutional population age 15 and over, individuals ages 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 were the most likely to provide eldercare (23 and 22 percent, respectively), followed by those age 65 and over (16 percent). 

This is an interactive chart. Mouse over to see data labels. Click the legend items to hide and show data displayed.

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Who received eldercare?

In 2011, most eldercare providers cared for their own relatives:  42 percent cared for a parent, 19 percent cared for a grandparent, 4 percent cared for a spouse or unmarried partner,2 and 21 percent cared for another related person.  Just 25 percent of eldercare providers cared for a nonrelative, and this includes some providers who cared for both a nonrelative and relative. Most eldercare providers (85 percent) did not live in the same household as their care recipients. 

Percent of eldercare providers in the civilian noninstitutional population age 15 and older, by relationship to care recipient, 2011 annual averages
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How often was care provided? How much care was usually provided?

On average in 2011, 24 percent of eldercare providers cared for at least one person per day, spending 3.1 hours in eldercare on days that they provided care.  Weekend days had higher rates of eldercare than weekdays:  an average of 27 percent of eldercare providers provided care per weekend day, compared with 22 percent per weekday. 

Among the population of eldercare providers in 2011, men and women were about equally likely to provide care on an average day. On days they provided care, however, women spent more time (3.5 hours) than men (2.6 hours) providing this care. 

A majority (64 percent) of eldercare providers were employed; however, among caregivers, those who were employed were less likely to provide care on an average day than those who were not employed.  Employed caregivers also spent less time providing care on the days they did so.  Among eldercare providers, 19 percent of the employed and 32 percent of those not employed provided care on an average day; on days that they provided care, employed persons spent 2.4 hours providing eldercare compared with 3.9 hours for those who were not employed. 

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How much time did eldercare providers spend in different care activities?

On days they provided care in 2011, eldercare providers spent 1.0 hour—about one third of the total time spent in eldercare—in leisure activities associated with eldercare.  Household activities, at 42 minutes, was the second most time-consuming caregiving activity. These two activities were also the ones that eldercare providers were most likely to do as eldercare:  37 percent of providers engaged in leisure and sports and 40 percent in household activities on days they provided care. 

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These data are from the American Time Use Survey program. For more information, see “American Time Use Survey — 2011 Results” (HTML) (PDF), news release USDL-12-1246.


1 A condition related to aging is an ongoing ailment or physical or emotional limitation that typically affects older people, such as becoming more frail; having difficulty seeing, hearing, or physically moving; becoming more forgetful; tiring more quickly; or specific medical ailments that are more common among older adults. It also refers to existing conditions that become progressively worse as one ages.

2 This type of eldercare may be underreported, especially when the care provided has only recently become necessary. For example, a survey respondent who has always prepared the family dinner may not view cooking as an eldercare activity; if her husband is no longer capable of preparing his own meals, though, he depends on this assistance and it meets the definition of eldercare.


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