The Many Faces of Caregiving Back »

Written by Bethany Stoutamire under the direction and review of Leacey E. Brown.


Caregiving can take many shapes and forms. It may be an adult child caring for an older parent or a grandparent raising a grandchildren. Acting as a caregiver can be emotionally and financially stressful, but it can also be a very rewarding experience.

Children as Caregivers

Adults between the ages of 45 and 65 are most likely to be caregivers to an older adult. About three in five adults with a parent who is 65 years old or older have helped their parent with errands, housework, or home repairs in the last twelve months. Twenty-eight percent of these individuals helped their parents out financially. Fifty-seven percent of these respondents said the financial support was due to a particular circumstance or sudden event, while forty-three percent said it was a more regular occurrence. Only a small percentage of caregivers reported helping with personal care, such as bathing. However, women were twice as likely as men to report giving this type of care to their aging parent.

Grandchildren as Caregivers

Approximately 8% of all caregivers over the age of 18 are grandchildren. Sometimes, even children as young as seven are expected to assist their parents to help alleviate some of their parent’s, the primary caregiver, strain. The “oldest old” (age 85 and older) is the fastest growing age group in the population, a number expected to increase by 50% from 2011 to 2030. As these adults age, so do their own children, meaning that adult grandchildren may be expected to pick up more of the slack.

Grandparents as Caregivers

Older adults themselves can also be an important source of caregiving. As Phyllis Moen notes in her book Encore Adulthood, “US Census data shows that one in five preschoolers whose mothers are employed are cared for primarily by their grandparents. Research shows Boomer grandparents and parents typically provide more assistance to their adult children and grandchildren than they receive.” Sometimes, grandparents are providing more than just babysitting services. In 2016, there were 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren, a number many think will continue to rise. In South Dakota, approximately 2.4% of adults (age 30 and over), live with at least one grandchild and about 1.3% of these grandparents are responsible for taking care of basic needs.

The different forms of caregiving can each be difficult in their own way. Thus, it is important that each caregiver is able to find the approach that works best for his or her family. This will hopefully take away some of the pain or frustration around caregiving and bring more joy.


References and Additional Readings:

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