Background Caregivers of the elderly with chronic illnesses are exposed to the burden associated with their caregiving activities. This study described the lived experience of caregivers of older adults in Nigeria. Methods A qualitative design guided by interpretive phenomenology informed the design of the research, whereby 15 in-depth interviews were conducted with caregivers of older adults with chronic illnesses. The interview sessions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim and analysed using constant comparison analysis method. Results Fifteen caregivers, from different parts of Osun State, Nigeria, took part in the in-depth interviews. The caregivers were aged between 19 and 70 years, ten were women, five of them had secondary education, seven were self-employed and six were in a spousal relationship. The study uncovered four interrelated themes with explanatory subthemes—commitment to preservation of life (managing challenges associated with daily routine, problem with mobility, bathing and grooming, feeding, and problem with hygiene) (ii) denial (refusal to accept that burden exists) , other things suffer (disruption of family process, suffering from poor health and social isolation), (iv) reciprocity of care (pride in caregiving, caregiving as a necessity and not by choice, and law of karma). Conclusion This study provides insight into the burden of care of older adults with chronic illness. Caregivers' commitment to preserving life makes them provide assistance whose performance even run contrary to their own wellbeing. Intervention programme should be designed to support the caregivers thereby improving their wellbeing.