Support for family caregivers a must

September 18, 2012

Health, Health care, Seniors

The role of family caregivers is clearly important. They help family members remain in their homes and communities where most prefer to receive care, often delaying or preventing the need for costly institutional care.

by Dr. Leonard Kirschner — 

Millions of adults often juggle work and family in order to provide caregiving to an aged and/or ailing loved one. It is estimated that the economic value of family caregiving in the U.S. was about $350 billion for 2006. The economic value of these services in Arizona is estimated to be $5.6 billion, which is one-half of the entire Arizona state budget. These figures are part of the recently released AARP report, “Valuing the Invaluable: A New Look at the Economic Value of Family Caregiving.”

It is important to put this into perspective — $350 billion equals the total expenditure for the Medicare program ($342 billion in 2005) and is more than the total expenditures by federal and state governments for the Medicaid program ($300 billion in 2005, including both medical care and long-term care). Further, it is nearly 40 percent more than the total public and private spending for nursing home and home healthcare combined ($206.6 billion in 2005).

The role of family caregivers is clearly important. They help family members remain in their homes and communities where most prefer to receive care, often delaying or preventing the need for costly institutional care.

But family caregivers need more support. Government and employer programs are able to do more. In fact, the cost of funding more services and support for family caregivers is small, compared to the value of their contributions. It is time to come together to actively seek multiple solutions to help them help the ones they love.

 

Dr. Leonard Kirschner is the state president of AARP Arizona. 866-389-5649, 602-253-2230 or www.aarp.org.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 4, August/September 2007.

 

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