The number of unpaid caregivers in the United States has exploded over the last five years as 1 in 5 Americans is now caring for a loved one, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.
In 2020, 21% of Americans were providing unpaid care, up from 18% in 2015.
Of those caregivers, according to AARP, 61% are women, 24% are caring for more than one person, 26% have difficulty coordinating care and 23% say caregiving has made their own health worse.
“There is a sadness there because I’ve lost a lot of people I used to be close to who just don’t understand my world,” said Andrea Roberts, whose oldest son has Down syndrome.
In 2016, Roberts started the Terrace Guest House in New Market, Maryland. It's a small colonial bed and breakfast where caregivers like her can go for rest, relaxation and understanding.
“Every day, we choose to live the lives that we’re living, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get tired,” added Ami Gregor, the innkeeper at the Terrace Guest House.
The Terrace Guest House offers caregivers a place to focus on themselves after many of them spend their waking hours focusing on a loved one. On this particular weekday, five women were staying at the Terrace Guest House.
“We all come from different walks, different parts of the region and we come together with one thread: a caregiver,” said Beth Ford, who cares for her husband, a stroke survivor. “[The Terrace Guest House] is love. This is family, this is, 'You get me and I don’t have to make nice.' I don’t have to smile and say everything is OK when I’m dying inside.”
“When we first opened this place, I can’t count the number of people who, when I opened the door, collapsed in my arms in tears,” added Roberts.
After the initial success of the Terrace Guest House, Roberts expanded her operation by starting the nonprofit A Mother’s Rest, which now coordinates with 40 bed and breakfasts around the country to offer caregivers, including men, a getaway for $60 a night. The rest of the money for the stay comes from private donations.
“These clients are coming here and they’re caring for everybody in their household,” said Gregor. “They’re caring for their children and their spouses, and here they come and it’s just like, ‘Ahhh.’ Just care for yourself.”