Roughly three per cent of households in Australia contain an elderly person who is a relative of the household. This family form occurs for a variety of reasons, but the most important of these is the chronic health status of the elderly person. Most elderly people begin living with relatives because of illness and attendant activity limitations for which continuous support and care is necessary and available through family support. This study investigated the costs and difficulties of family care for both the carer and the family and showed that the caring situation was usually established because the elderly relatives either could not look after themselves or needed supervision and care. Data were collected in Sydney and Hobart from a sample of· 75 residents and this enabled the study to reflect some perspectives that extended beyond the boundary of one state on the issue of family care. The study found almost 93 per cent of the elderly relatives were aged 75 years and over, with the majority of those being aged 80-89 years. Thus the majority of elderly fell into the category ‘old’ old and consequently were most likely to be suffering from chronic health problems. This had great negative impact on most social aspects of the carers 1ife. The research found that the carers : - had less time for recreation and leisure activities (79%); - (in paid employment) suffered a deterioration in work performance (84%); - had less time to complete housework and allied chores (52%); - suffered from a deterioration in the relationship with their spouse (56%); - were less able to relax and sleep at night (60%); - were apprehensive about their growing older (51%); Furthermore, the carers' - relationships with brothers and sisters deteriorated rapidly (90%) - general emotional state declined (50%) In short, the pattern that emerged was a marked deterioration in many important areas of the carers' lifestyle. The study also found that over 95 per cent of the carers were women which demonstrates that family care is, in reality, care by women. Care by women is so firmly entrenched in the family role structure that over 50 per cent of the carers surveyed had given up jobs in order to provide care.