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.


Childhood

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

12

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

13

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

14

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

15

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

16

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

17

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

18

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

19

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

20

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

21

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

22

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

23

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

24

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

25

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

26

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

27

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

28

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

29

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

30

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

31

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

32

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

33

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

34

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

35

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

37

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

38

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

39

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

40

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

41

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

42

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

44

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

45

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

46

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

47

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

48

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

49

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

51

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

52

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

53

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

54

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

55

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

56

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

57

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.

About Cori Carl

As Director, Cori develops our comprehensive global communications and development strategy. She’s constantly tweaking our services based on data-driven marketing metrics and feedback from caregivers. She works to grow our community and build the reputation of The Caregiver Space by amplifying the message on social media, cultivating relationships with experts, creating organizational partnerships, and earning media coverage. She’s an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for Caregivers.

Cori joined The Caregiver Space after a decade of serving as a communications consultant for a number of nonprofit organizations and corporations furthering sustainable energy and urban planning solutions.

Cori has an MA in Corporate Communications from Baruch College at CUNY and a BA in Media Studies from Eugene Lang College at the New School University. She divides her time between Brooklyn and Toronto.

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