BACKGROUND Caregivers of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) need similar levels of support services as Alzheimer's disease (AD) caregivers, but it is unclear if this translates to increased caregiver burden. METHODS 135 participants and their caregivers (40 MCI, 55 AD and 40 normal controls, NC) completed questionnaires, and the patients were administered neuropsychological tests. RESULTS The MCI caregivers reported significantly more overall caregiving burden than the NC, but less than the AD. They showed similar levels of emotional, physical and social burden as the AD caregivers. Among the MCI caregivers, the neuropsychiatric symptoms and executive functioning of the patients were related to a greater burden, and the caregivers with a greater burden reported lower life satisfaction and social support, and a greater need for support services. CONCLUSION These results indicate that MCI caregivers are at increased risk for caregiver stress, and they require enhanced assistance and/or education in caring for their loved ones.