Health & Human Services Administration on Aging (AoA)

Courtesy of the US Department of Health and Human Services AoA, families - not social service agencies, nursing homes, or government programs - are the mainstay of underpinning long-term care (LTC) for older persons who live in the community and have at least 1 limitation on their activities of daily living. These caregivers include spouses, adult children, and other relatives and friends.

The degree of caregiver involvement has remained fairly constant for more than a decade, bearing witness to the remarkable resilience of the American family in taking care of its older persons. This is despite increased geographic separation, greater numbers of women in the workforce, and other changes in family life. Thus, family caregiving has been a blessing in many respects. It has been a budget-saver to governments faced annually with the challenge of covering the health and long-term care expenses of persons who are ill and have chronic disabilities. The economic value of our nation's family and informal caregivers has been estimated at $257 billion annually.


  • The National Family Caregiver Program
  • Eligible Populations
  • Important Features
  • The National Aging Services Network
  • Who to Contact for Help

The National Family Caregiver Support Program

The enactment of the Older Americans Act Amendments of the 2000 established an important new program, the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). The program calls for all states, working in partnership with area agencies on aging and local community-service providers, to have 5 basic services for family caregivers. These services include:
  • Information to caregivers about available services
  • Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to services
  • Individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training to caregivers to assist the caregivers in making decisions and solving problems relating to their caregiving roles
  • Respite care to enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their caregiving responsibilities
  • Supplemental services, on a limited basis, to complement the care provided by caregivers
Currently funded at $155.2 million, this program has served more than 275 thousand caregivers nationwide. Efforts regarding NFCSP have resulted in new partnerships, improved access to services, outreach to special populations, and provisions of services to respond to the unique needs of families.

Eligible Populations

  • Family caregivers of older adults
  • Grandparents and relative caregivers, age 60 years or older, of children no older than age 18 (including grandparents who are sole caregivers of grandchildren and those individuals who are affected by mental retardation or who have developed disabilities)
The statute requires states to give priority consideration to:
  • Persons in greatest social and economic need (with particular attention to low-income individuals)
  • Older individuals providing care and support to persons with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities

Other Important Features

In addition to the formula grants, state and area agencies on aging, nonprofit community service providers, institutions of higher education, and national organizations received grants to develop innovative approaches to assist families and informal caregivers of older persons as well as grandparents and older relatives who are caregivers of children.

Also, nearly $5 million in grants were awarded to 119 tribal organizations in September 2001 to provide families of Native American and Native Hawaiian elders with access to information, respite care, counseling, training, and supplemental services to help them meet their real-life caregiving challenges. This new program supporting caregivers of native Americans received $5.5 million for Fiscal Year 2002.

The National Aging Services Network

Under the authority of the Older Americans Act, AoA works closely with the National Aging Services Network of federal, state, and local organizations to plan, coordinate, and provide home and community based services to meet the unique needs of older persons and their caregivers.

Who to Contact for Help

Finding help when you need it can be one of the biggest challenges of caregiving. There are many resources that can provide you with information and assistance in accessing services.
  • The Eldercare Locator helps families find service providers and formal caregivers where their loved one lives...even if they live some place else!
  • Through the Older Americans Act and state and local resources, a network of state and local agencies on aging are available to assist you in caring for your loved one, whether you live next door or in the next state.
  • FirstGov for Seniors will empower citizens to obtain valuable health and security information and services at one location via the internet.
  • HealthFinder® is an award winning Federal website, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services together with other Federal agencies. Since 1997, HealthFinder® has been recognized as a key resource for finding the best government and nonprofit health and human services information on the internet. HealthFinder® links to carefully selected information and websites from over 1,800 health related organizations
  • Sometimes families who have become responsible for their parents' affairs need to request copies of lost records, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, military records, old tax returns, or Social Security payment information. The Elderweb brings this information to you - in a single place.
  • uses the power of web based applications to create a user friendly, easily accessed, online environment. They are dedicated to providing high quality, in-depth resource information that support the needs of those who are dependent, disabled, ill or elderly.

National Organizations

  • The Career Action Network is a caregiver membership organization, provides services in the areas of information and education, support, public awareness and advocacy for caregivers. Please call 800-896-3650 for more information.
  • The Family Caregiver Alliance is a nonprofit organization that addresses the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home. The Caregiver Alliance has developed a wide array of services based on consumer needs and is often described as a "one-stop” shopping center for caregivers.
  • The National Alliance for Caregiving conducts research, develops national projects, and increases public awareness of important family caregiving issues.