The cost of caregiving
Caring for loved ones in need is nothing new, but the demand for caregivers in growing rapidly. Nearly 51 million Americans who are elderly or have a serious medical condition are in need of caregiving, and much of that need is met by unpaid friends and relatives. But, helping these loved ones is not without cost.
A new analysis of Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® data by Moody’s Analytics, “The Economic Impact of Caregiving,” looks at the substantial effects unpaid caregiving is having on the U.S. economy. The time spent providing care coupled with the mental and physical toll of regularly serving as an uncompensated caretaker is leading to direct and indirect costs totaling $264 billion annually.
Many caregivers continue to be a part of the paid workforce while also helping a loved one by administering medications, aiding them with daily tasks and finances, or advocating on behalf of the patient, leading to poorer health, increased absenteeism and, in some cases, loss of employment—all of which have economic implications.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index measurements show caregivers have 26 percent worse health outcomes compared to the benchmark population. And workers who are less healthy tend to be less productive, have lower per capita incomes and are employed less often. Indirect economic impact from deteriorating health among caregivers is estimated at $221 billion. Coupled with the direct impact of more than 650,000 lost jobs and nearly 800,000 experiencing absenteeism issues at work, the cost totals another $44 billion.
The report found economic impact from caregiving varies by geographic location, with Alabama, Delaware and Florida seeing the highest, with 1.9 percent or more of total income effected. Alaska, Arizona, California and Colorado see the smallest impact to total income at less than 1.2 percent. Nationwide, the impact is 1.5 percent. When looking at the county level, the impact is far more disparate.
The demands on the caregiver are high, and the economic impact of caregiving is felt by large swaths of the population. With an estimated 30 percent of long-term care facilities potentially facing bankruptcy in the coming years, the need for friends and family members to step into the role of caregiver will only increase, as will the economic impacts.
Read the full report.