Your Value: $450 Billion


Your Value: $450 Billion

The AARP Public Policy Institute released an report which updates the national and state estimates of the economic value of family caregiving using the most current available data. In 2009, about 42.1 million family caregivers in the U.S. provided care at any given point in time, and about 61.6 million provided care at some time during the year. The estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $450 billion in 2009, up from an estimated $375 billion in 2007.

To give this number perspective, the value of your services is greater than WalMart's $408 billion in sales in 2009 (the most of any company).

The report, "Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update, The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving," also includes recommendations for the government, employers and communities to help family caregivers, including:

  • Family friendly workplace policies which include flex time and telecommuting, as well as caregiver support programs;

  • Include family caregiver assessments in patient care plans, such as during hospital discharges;

  • Improve the Family and Medical Leave Act to include a reasonable amount of paid leave for family caregivers;

  • Increase funding for the Family Caregiver Caregiver Support, which funds local Area Agencies on Aging to oversee caregiving programs. Total funding for the program in 2011 is $160 million. (Yep, that's it. That's the amount allocated for all 42 million family caregivers.)

  • Adequately fund respite programs; the Lifespan Respite Care Act only receives $2.5 million this year. (Yep, that's it. That, too, is the amount allocated for all 42 million family caregivers.)

The report also requests research dollars, although honestly, I'm unclear as to what the research dollars would do. Here's the recommendation: "Promote research to 1) identify the health tasks performed by family caregivers in order to develop measures of health management tasks to modernize federally funded surveys on LTSS and caregiving; and 2) better understand and improve the quality of interactions between family caregivers and health professionals, including better tools to track a family caregiver's care experience."

(Note: I have a long-standing frustration with dollars spent on research rather than respite (read "When Researching for Tomorrow, Pay for Today's Help"). To me, the best way to improve a family caregiver's care experience is to give him or her regular breaks that don't break the bank. And, in our 2011 family caregiver survey, you said the worst time for you in your caregiving experience was when you were exhausted because you hadn't taken a break. Until we can provide regular and affordable breaks, I say we need to shelve talk of research.)

You can view AARP's report here.

So, what do you think? What recommendations would you add?

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