According to reports from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, approximately 53 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult or child. That’s over 21 percent of the general adult population in the country. The baby boomer generation represents the largest group of unpaid caregivers today, with Generation X and millennials very close behind them, often caring for loves ones with illnesses that have no sustained treatment or cure, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

After diagnosis, an illness normally plays out in stages. I think about the arc of my mother’s life from college sorority sister, to wife, mother and careerwoman, through my father’s passing, followed by her 18-year dementia journey and, ultimately, her death.

A caregiver’s life plays out in stages, too. I had a career that took me to clients around the globe and my husband had a demanding job. We enjoyed friends, were engaged in our community and, although we had no children, had settled into a fulfilling life-after infertility. It was in the midst of my so-called life that my mom came to live with us and I learned about being a care partner.