More Americans, regardless of experience or specialized knowledge, are finding themselves thrust into the role of caregivers. In a recent Pew Research survey, 36% of  U.S. adults said they provided unpaid care to an adult relative or friend in the past year, up from 27% in 2010. Eight percent said they provided unpaid care to a child living with health challenges or disabilities, up from 5% in 2010. All told, 39% of U.S. adults are caregivers, up from 30% in 2010.

Caregiving encompasses everything from buying someone groceries and managing their finances to helping them with bathing, dressing and other tasks of daily life. But a 2012 survey by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund found that in recent years, the role of family caregivers “has dramatically expanded to include performing medical/nursing tasks of the kind and complexity once only provided in hospitals.”

In fact, nearly half (46%) of family caregivers reported performing such medical/nursing tasks, three-quarters of those said their tasks included giving injections, administering intravenous fluids or otherwise managing medications.

The Pew Research study found similar results, with 39% of caregivers saying they managed medications. Of that group, 18% said they used online or mobile tools, such as websites or apps, to manage medications, which translates to 7% of all caregivers. College graduates were the most likely group to use technology to track medications. Read more


Drew DeSilver  is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.