caregiving roles change over time. how old were you when you became a caregiver?

Caregivers come from all ages and walks of life. So many of our community members have been part-time, full-time, long-distance, and professional caregivers over the years.

But as Cathy put it so perfectly:

It isn’t a competition regarding when we started caregiving, every version of it is hard.

I asked our community members how old they were when they became a caregiver. Here’s what they had to say.


My mother has been sick all my life. I don’t remember a time in my life I wasn’t helping her with some sort of medical assistance. – Sara

If you consider cooking and cleaning and being emotionally supportive for people who have special needs, technically, 6, but officially 24 is when it was clearly an adult caring for individuals with disabilities. – Eric

I suppose it really began when I was about 5, my younger brother had cystic fibrosis and I was with him till his last breath when he was 15. When I was much older we had my grandma with Alzheimer’s live with us. Then I helped my mom care for my dad who passed away in 2008 with complications of COPD & CHF. Now a caregiver for our adult son age 25 because of a TBI. – Aria

I started helping at 6-7 years old. My father had cancer and we helped mom as much as we could. He was 49. I would pick him up the floor, he’d be so weak from cancer. – Nicole

I became a caregiver at 6 yrs old, started with my 4 yr old brother. I’m still a caregiver but for the mentally challenged now. – Doreen

I was born into it. – Connie

At birth. – Skyler


I was 12 when I started. I had to take care of my mentally ill mother plus my younger sister. I’ve taken care of both my grandparents, great-aunt, both adult sisters, neighbor lady, and now my dad with dementia. I’m tired. – Trudy


I helped take care of my great-grandmother when I was 13. When I was 14 I took care of my mother when she had a nerves breakdown. At 19 I became a Certified Home Health Aid and worked outside of the home. At 23 I gave up that job and moved in with my grandparents to help take care of them. I’m now 34 and still taking care of my elderly grandparents, my mother who has had another breakdown and cant really function on her own, and my father who has physical limitations and failing health. Over the years I have also cared for my uncle and his handicapped wife. I feel like i’m watching my entire family, everyone I care about, slowly slip away a little more each day. My brother died 13 years ago and my best friend died by suicide 3 years ago. My life has been dedicated to taking care of my family. I don’t really have a life out side of that. – Amanda


From 14-36 years old I helped my Mom (and Aunt also who lived with us). Now I help my Dad and I’m 48. – Rebecca

I would work as a babysitter at 14, doing caregiving. At 17 I started helping with my nana. – Cheyenne


My dad got sick with heart disease and related problems when I was 15 and I helped care for him in the 21 years before his death. I moved 150 miles from my hometown to live with my mom and care for her the last few years of her life, I was 54 then. I’m 59 now and I care for my sister. – Joy

My mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 1976 when I was 11 and needed more and more care by 1980 long before cancer was a household word. She died in 1989 just after I graduated from nursing school. – Loretta

The neighbor hired me to take care of the mentally impaired son when I was 15. All my jobs, except for one, had some form of taking care of someone else. I’m 58 now. My husband has asked me to fight the urge to take care of other people and so we can enjoyed our retirement years finally taking care of each other. I still take care of people occasionally. – Madeleine


My grandmother was ill…it was summer…what else needs to be said??? – Gwen

I was 24 for my Mom. I helped with my grandma at 16. I’m now 47. I’m now chronically ill. We help each other with cooking. I do the laundry. We have someone do the yard work. I don’t know how long it will go on but I will do the job until the end. No way I will let her go to a home. – Alicia

I was 16 and still in high school. – Tracy


I became a caregiver at 17. Now I’m 34. – Rachelle


I took care of mental challenged children. They had been abused and their parents on drugs. – Jo

I started taking care of my mother at 18. I became a nurse when I was 27. – Lois

I was 18 when I became a caregiver for my grandfather. – Margie


I became a caregiver at 19, as soon as i left high school. I gave up lots including college to take up being a full time caregiver to my parents. Took care of my dad until his death in 2008 and still taking care of my mom. – Julia

I was 19 when I started as a health care aid. – Mara

I started at 19 years old. I’m 22 now. – Bri

I started at 19, as a professional caregiver. – Beth

I was 19 when I gave birth to a son with Lissencephaly. He is now 21 and needs 24/7 care. – Shaz

I became a caregiver at 19, right out of high school. Now 30 years later I’m still going. – Diane

I was 19. Now I have been doing it for about 20 years. – Kama


My dad had a massive stroke a few days after my birthday and my mom couldn’t stop working. I was enrolled in online college courses so I was able to be with him during the day. He eventually recovered well enough to be alone and take care of himself. At 25 I took care of him while he went through chemo and radiation at MD Anderson for almost two months. We live in Mississippi so I drove my parents out and stayed with them. Sadly, he passed away from it after a two year battle. Two years ago at 30 I moved back home to be my mom’s full-time caregiver after her early onset dementia began progressing and she didn’t need to be driving anymore. It’s now reached a level where I have to help her bathe and get dressed, but she knows enough that we are still able to have a good time. – Angela


I was 21, mom of a 16 month old and 5 month old when my 5 month old was shaken by his babysitter. They didn’t think he would make it, he did but he is fully dependent and at the cognitive level of a 6-9 month old though he is 14. – Tiffany

My Mom had a brain tumor in her brain stem. It was near a main artery so they had to leave some there, which grew back in 2006 and she had her 2nd brain surgery. From her surgeries she had a stroke during her surgery which left her paralyzed on the left side, short term memory was affected, vision was affected, speech. Lover her dearly and I still care for her and I am 48 now. – Michelle

I was a caregiver for my grandfather for about 2 years, assisting my grandmother, when I was in my early 20s. In 2008, when I was 50, my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so I moved in with parents to help my Mom with his care. We kept him at home until he passed in 2009. I continued to live with my Mom, and am still with her to this day. She is now 86 years old; I am 58. I have been her sole caregiver since 2009. She has numerous health issues, including difficult-to-control diabetes, COPD, acute and chronic CHF, HTN, diabetic neuropathy, PVD. I also work full-time from home as a medical transcriptionist. Yes, I am tired, but God will get me through it and help me continue to provide the best care possible. – Diane

I became a caregiver at 21, I think. It’s been so long that I forget. – Amanda

I was 21. I’m 57 now and still caregiving. – Michelle


I was 22 when my husband had a TBI. – Mel

I was in my 20s. I’m still going strong in my very late 50s. – Deborah


I became a caregiver at 23, I’m now 58. I have gone from one person to another all those years. – Debbie

At 23 I started in a nursing home. Now I’m taking care of my husband. – Shelly


Married less than 3 years, began caring for my husband’s mother (breast cancer – no doctors or medical care, per her religion). Also, her sister had Alzheimer’s. Then late 30s, caring for my own mother until her death from COPD. – Lynn

At 24 I took care of my mom for a year before she passed away. – Fatin


My first and only son was born with a brain injury during labor and delivery, due to medical negligence. He has cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment and many struggles and delays. But he is my whole world. – Liz

Mid 20’s is when I started taking care of my mom. Almost 60 now, and still caregiving for others. I’m tired and ready to retire. Hopefully within the next year. – Penny

I became a caregiver at 25. I’m 41 now. – Shannon

I was 25 when I started caring for my mother with early onset Alzheimer’s. – Lindsey

I was 25 when my mom got a heart attack and, later on, a stroke. – Gloria


It was my 26 birthday when my husband had a stroke,that left him with no speech & paralyzed on right side. I’m still caring for him. The older you get the harder it seems. – Patti

I became a caregiver at 26, and I’m still a care giver for the disabled. – Terrie


I was 27. I have a 19 year old with Spina Bifida. – Jackie


At 28 I became a caregiver after my sister suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motor car collision. – Tracey


When my husband suffered a severe closed head injury from an accident. Took care of him for almost 39 years. Now I have to figure out the rest of my life. – Darnly

I became a caregiver at 29, when my son was born disabled. – Terri

I was a caregiver at 29 and again at 43. – Jennifer


At 30 I became my parent’s caregiver. – Kim


I will be starting my 26th year on May 27th. – John


I was 32 when I moved in with my 80 year old Grandma to help with her stroke recovery. It’s coming up on 2 years since I made one of the best decisions of my life… ❤️  She took 46 steps on her own today!!! There were so many unrelated health issues for over a year after her stroke, so rehab was put off for a long time. Praise God, she’s finally in good health again and is making wonderful, albeit slow, progress with recovery. – Cyndi


Mom was diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago. Took care of her for two years and then my father as he had health issues toward the end of mom’s life. I am still caring for dad but now on hospice care and in my home. – Rachelle

I was widowed suddenly at 29. I became a caregiver at 33 for my boyfriend with cancer. He had lymphoma and brain tumors. – Coral

At 33 I started working in a hospice house. – Karen


I was 34. It was the end of everything. The beginning of everything. – Charles


I was 35. It has been 5 years since my husband’s accident. – Stephanie

I was 35 when my mother had a sudden ruptured brain aneurysm. – Christina


I was 37. Momma had Alzheimer’s. – Mary


I was 38 when my mom got sick, well sicker. We had a drapery shop we had owned and operated for about 25 years at the time, I tried to juggle taking care of her and keeping our shop afloat, eventually I had to close the business because she needed 24/7 care. She already had cardiomyopathy, and had it for years. Then one day she thought she was having a heart attack. Brought her to the emergency room and found out she had pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and throat cancer. Her throat cancer was in stages 3 and 4, and they gave her about 6 months to live. She was a complicated case due to the cardiomyopathy and CHF. No chemo, radiation was our only option. That was May 2003. With aggressive radiation for five weeks, twice a day, five days a week, she lived another two and a half years. My dad who has Parkinson’s couldn’t take care of her on his own, she needed 24/7 care. I took care of her, now I take care of him. We do what we must for the people we love. – Stacie

My mom was on hospice with cancer when I was 38. Daddy became ill with CHF when I was 41 and my husband was diagnosed with MS six months later. I also have a son with autism who is 23. I’m now 55. – Laurie


My son had his TBI when he was 12. He’s 25 now. – Tina


My son was diagnosed with a brain tumor/cancer and I was age 40. He was 20. He passed away this past Jan. 2, 2017. Twenty five long years of his illness. We kept him at home til the very end. – Kathy


I was 41 and have been caring for my husband for 17 years now. He has brain injury and cannot walk, talk and he eats through a G-tube. – Juracy


Age 42 for my patients. One year with my boyfriend and thank goodness we had Hospice help. He has been gone for 6 month’s. I still miss him so very much. – Susanne

I was 42 when my mom had a stroke. – Robin


I was 44 when my partner suffered a TBI after an 18 wheel truck ran a red light at 9 am. She was on her way to work…that was in1995. – Lorraine


I became a caregiver at 45. I never saw it coming. – Louis

I was 45. My daughter was 12. It takes the two of us to handle it. – Kim


I was 46 years old when I started taking care of my 52 year old husband. – Cindy

I was 46 when I started being a caregiver. – Roberta


It was 47 for me. My husband survived 20 months. (Glioblastoma average survival is only 14 months). – Melanie

I became a caregiver at 47. My husband is sick. – Lorraine


I was 48 when my wife was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. – Claude


My father went into hospice care & my mother has dementia. My dad is actually doing very well, but really bad memory loss. My mother often thinks I am her cousin. – Cindy

I was a caregiver from 49 to 53 for my parents. I’m still doing at 55 for my disabled husband. – Julie


My husband died 4 months ago. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor 4 years ago. – Susan


I’ve been doing it full time since then. (4years). Part time 10+ years prior. – Angela


I was 53 when I cared for my Dad and then not again until I was 65 when my husband got Alzheimer’s. – Lynne


I became a caregiver at 54…I will be 64 next week. – Annette


I became a caregiver when my 57yr husband suffered a Dbl stroke that left him completely left side paralyzed and 33% upper right brain lobe death. It is going on 5 years now. – Brenda

I became a caregiver at 55, and I’m still doing it at 61. I retired from my job to take on this new role. – Paula

We took care of my mom after my dad died. We were all over 55. – Julie


It became full-time from 56-64. – Christine


My husband had a bad stroke almost eight years ago, three weeks after he retired. He had just turned sixty. You just never know what life has in store for you! – Karen

My Mother is now 97 and five years ago I was 57 when I started taking care of her, 24/7. – Beverly

You can read all of the responses on our Facebook page.

Written by Cori Carl
As Director, Cori is an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for people providing care.

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  1. 62. For my wonderful son

  2. You all amaze me special people

  3. I was 52. Am now 69 and still caregiving. For my husband with MS now.

  4. 16 for my grandmother so my aunt could work the night shift and take care of her mom in the day. My cousin was 14 but not much of a help so I went to live with them for a school year. And all through the decade of my 50s I cared for my mother, father, and Aunt. Really ruined my own health.

  5. 26 when my mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s

  6. After my divorce in 2009, my mom became my main priority~ and her death was the last time I felt needed.that was in January of this year.

  7. 45, when my husband had his stroke. I don’t resent an ounce of the work I do for him and will always be thankful he made it because he nearly didn’t ❤️

  8. I’ve been a caregiver for our son with autism since his diagnosis at 4. He is 22 now. I am 64.

  9. I was 26 when my Dad had his first stroke (he’s had many) in 2011, and my sisters were 17 and 14.. we’re still his primary caretakers to this day. I’m honored yet exhausted. I admire so many of you wonderful caregivers on this thread/page. Sending you strength and healing energy.

  10. My father was dying, and at 12 I became a caregiver, along with my mother and sister, through my mother’s mental illness, cancer, my employer now my disabled combat veteran husband. I have been a caregiver all my life, and my life and financial future have been compromised as a result.

  11. 12 ! when my grandma had a stroke. I’d spend the night.get up walk to bus stop..go to school….later after another stroke I helped with her bathroom routine along with anything else. she was the sweetest person in the world and I’d do it all over again in a second for her. I miss her so much. And now I’m still caring for elderly ones professionally. Also helping my mom take care of my other grandma…

  12. 54, I’m 67 now. It’s a long road.

  13. I was 28 when I began caring for my grandma, and I’m 31 now. When I was 18, I was a direct support professional providing in home support to adults with developmental disabilities.

  14. 53 that was 6 yrs ago when my Dad passed and I took over my mom who is now 84 has Dementia.

  15. 20 Something cared for My Mother.

  16. I’ve been a care giver since I could walk.

  17. Full-time,I was 39 And I would do it all over again.

  18. I was a caregiver for my Grandma and my Mom started when I turned 40. My grandma passed in 2010 and my mom just passed 8-28-17 and I will be 51 in a few weeks. Living for myself now. ❤️

  19. 12 years old

    I’m currently into my 25th year of caring for my mom.

  20. 44 when my son suffered a spinal stroke 3 years ago in April. His spinal stroke left him a quadriplegic.

  21. Eight years old. And I haven’t stopped yet. I’m now 66.

  22. At the age is 13 until age 48 I became the helper to my Mother when she was sick off and on. Cook, clean, laundry, tote and fetch.
    At age 38 sat with and care for my Daddy from diagnosis to death of cancer, Mom was a basket case. From the age of 47 until present I have care for Mother which became 24/7 in 2005.
    I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t caring for my mother

  23. I have been providing care since the age of 12. My father was an alcoholic I became his parent…then continued taking care of babies and so on.

  24. 2 years ago, 31 for my mom who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at 56

  25. Forty five years of age when my mother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. She passed away two years ago and helped with my sister who died one year and two days apart from my mother.

  26. 59. Taking care of wife with Alzheimer’s. Had to leave work early. Leaving on savings no gov help

  27. 55 waiting for retirement , still worked for 2 years them forced to quit to be a 100% caregiver. Also caring for a 85 year old mom thats healthy but showing early signs of dementia.

  28. My mother and father both had strokes when I was 27. My autistic/Sanfilippo daughter was born at the same time (she’s 23 now), my hubs has been on disability for scoliosis since 2005. So I’ve been a caregiver to many for a lot of years.

    • Hug hug hug you beautiful soul! ❤️

    • I feel like we have similar stories. I was 25 and now I’m 37.

      My mom had a stroke in 2005. I helped my dad take care of her until 2008 when my dad died unexpectedly. I became her full time caregiver ever since. I gave birth to a son in 2013 who was diagnosed with autism when he turned 3. It has been a difficulty journey, but my husband and a few family members help out when we need breaks.

    • Yes we do have similar stories. I was a late baby for my dad, he was 46 when I was born, and mom was younger, 29, but went on dialysis, so she passed at 56 & dad 2 years later (he was 17 years her senior). By then there were no family members to help. My hubs only had his mom when we met, and she lived in West Texas, us in East. So we took care of our daughter until his scoliosis. I do sometimes wish for a break, but there aren’t any family, his mom died right after we lost everything in Hurricane Ike. She never got to see our new rebuilt house. :/
      Most people in our town, either don’t want to help (I’ve offered to pay), or are afraid of her. My hubs can still help push her wheelchair, and run errands like the grocery store and post office. We still get to go certain places (where there’s assistance), it’s just our experiences are limited. We did get to take a cruise to Cozumel for her to play with dolphins. Which I highly recommend for autism. I can’t explain it, but evidently they make a frequency that helps.

    • Big love and hugs to you fellow caregiver, it’s tough work even when you love them with all your heart ❤️❤️

  29. 39 – the minute I stepped foot back in the same state as them. Not “hard core” until 46.

  30. 13 took care of family first which has turned into a 43 and still going career as a CNA caregiver.

  31. 34 for my husband of only 10 yrs now still after I’m 60 now still caring for him it’s been 26 yrs of disabled but still married 36 yrs.

  32. How can you be a caregiver and be long-distance? I mean, seriously…

    • What??? Confused with your question???

    • Bob Fleshman How can you be a long-distance caregiver? Someone else is obviously doing the caregiving if you are not physically present. Overseeing possibly.

    • I have wondered about this, too. Care management (from a distance) isn’t the same as being there as a caregiver 24/7 for years at a time. Professional caregivers get to go home after their shift. So many of us family/friend volunteer caregivers start our shift at 5am, and work until the next 5am, every day. I know that all roles are needed and valued, just different.

  33. 30 is when i started caring for my dad n years later my mother but at age 18 i took care of my nephew n nieces for 4yrs until the moms decided to come n get them started in school…

  34. 50. That’s when my husband had his head injury that changed our lives.

  35. 37, when my Mom had a hemorrhagic stroke

    • True story, my sister first – kidney cancer. Then my father, stroke and aneurism. Then my mom, dementia. All overlapping before previous passed. My health is failing now………super woman is tired. Oh, my aspbergers brother is my court appointed person I care for but in his own apartment.

  36. I was 23/24 with my father in law, then my mom 34.. now 36 taking care of her still.

  37. 59, when my son came home from the many medical facilities that treated him after the car crash that changed his life

  38. 25 when our son was diagnosed

  39. 38 to my mom after my dad passed away.

  40. When my Mom went deaf, I was 33.

  41. 2 years ago this month. My Gma had a stroke in May 2015 & one month later, her husband died (I had come to visit 2 days prior). God said stay, so I stayed. No regrets. This has been the most wonderfully blessed 2 years of my life. Gma & I are closer than ever, I’ve grown so much in my relationship with Christ, I’ve made a few really wonderful friends, & although there are so many physical & emotional struggles… there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. My Gma is still healing & Ill be here for as long as she needs me. Even if she regains 100% function & use of her left side, I’ll still be here. I can’t imagine living without her just a few steps away. I love this goofy picture of us… even through the pain, we still laugh. Can’t let the darkness in. ❤️

  42. 7yrs ago I became my moms full time caregiver
    My Mom is in the late stages of Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)

    • My Mother has PSP also. Diagnosed about 2 years ago (after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s for 1 year)

  43. When I was 12 years old

    I am still my mom’s caregiver. I’ve been caring for her for the last 25 years.

  44. We didn’t have a name for it years ago ..I was just a daughter of parents who became ill and needed help .. same with my aunts … and my mother in law and now my hubby ..

    Different illnesses but needing help on a daily basis ..

    I’ve always been a healthy person and was able to be the one to help .. at 73 now I am still in good health and very thankful as I have seen many who haven’t been that fortunate ..

    So pretty much since 1987 ..

    God Bless all caregivers .. we all have very different journeys

  45. 10 years total, but Mom has been living with me for almost 5 years. She is 91 and has dementia. I’m gonna keep her here as long as I can. ❤

  46. In the beginning my mom was diagnosed with Dementia after being in a coma for 6 months. She had meningitis. So I was a part time caregiver in 1982 and then 8 years ago she moved in with me. So I was working and a caregiver. About 4 years I became disabled and had to retire. So it became a 24/7 caregiver. Until last March she was receiving 20 to 35 hours a week aide services. That was a nightmare. Finally I was told about Moms in Motion and now my Daughter is her caregiver and I do the backup caregiving. This has been great for my mom who is 90 and in the advanced stage of Dementia. She is doing much better. Moms in Motion is great because it allows family caregivers to get paid or hire their own caregivers.


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