The AARP Public Policy Institute released its 2015 update on caregiving in the United States, and as they anticipated, the caregiving needs of adults are increasing. Based on data obtained in 2013, AARP found that about 40 million family caregivers provided over 37 billion hours of care to adults with limitations in their daily activities. The economic value of this care was estimated to be $470 billion. To get a perspective on this, AARP points out that the dollar amount of care provided exceeded total Medicaid spending, approximated the annual 2013 sales of the four largest US technology companies combined, and was more than total out-of-pocket spending for healthcare in 2013.
AARP found that family caregivers do much more than assist older people with daily activities. They manage medications, administer medical treatments, and conduct assessments of the family members they are caring for. AARP found that care of a family member with dementia is particularly challenging. About 25% are between the ages of 18 and 34 and provide care to parents and/or grandparents. In 2013, 40 million Americans identified themselves as family, and 60% were employed full or part time which places competing demands on the caregiver’s time.
AARP notes the importance of family caregiving on the public policy agenda, and concluded that family caregiving today is more complex, costly, stressful, and demanding than at any time in human history. Oncology clinicians are well aware of the important role of family caregivers and for decades have recognized and supported these caregivers. However, few clinicians have actively participated in the public policy arena, which is where they are now needed. The full AARP Public Policy report is available at http://www.aarp.org/ppi/info-2015/valuing-the-invaluable-2015-update.html.