What Is the Informal Home Care Industry
Until the proliferation of social programs in the 1960s and 1970s, family members and/or friends in the family cared for individuals that had long term care needs. This informal system provides a valuable service to little or no cost and is still the most widely used delivery mechanism for home care. However, burnout is a real issue with the informal home care industry. There is a growing inability of family caregivers to fully manage care without outside assistance—informal caregivers tend to suffer emotionally and physically.
How Much Does Informal Home Care Cost the US
Recent estimates place the number of unpaid family caregivers who provide hands-on care for persons age 50 or older at more than 34.2 million (AARP Public Policy Institute 2015). Most adult caregivers assist family members, most commonly a parent or parent-in-law. The majority of caregivers are female. 60 percent of informal caregivers are also employed outside the home (AARP Public Policy Institute 2015). Family caregivers frequently must make compromises in their finances, lifestyles, and personal freedoms to fully care for their loved ones. Some caregivers even must care for children or grandchildren in addition to aging adults or persons with disabilities.
Estimates place the market value of long term care delivered by unpaid family caregivers or friends to be more than $470 billion per year—almost double the national healthcare expenditures for nursing homes and home care combined (AARP 2015). Employers also experience losses because of the demands of caregiving on their employees. One study estimated the annual costs of lost productivity for U.S. businesses due to caregiving at nearly $34 billion (Metlife Institute 2006). Employer costs are associated with worker replacement, absenteeism, workday interruptions, elder care crises, and supervisory time. (Some larger employers are responding with flexible scheduling and other considerations to help accommodate their employees’ caregiving responsibilities for family members.)
Alternatives to Informal Home Care
Personal care aides and home health aides are the formal equivalent to family and friend caregivers. Personal care aides, “provide personal care in addition to other services, such as cleaning, running errands, preparing meals, and arranging for transportation” (“FYI: Different Types Of Home Care Workers” 2021). Personal care aides do not support the delivery of healthcare. There are also no federally mandated training requirements for personal care aides, although, “some states or employers may require personal care aides to complete a training program” (“FYI: Different Types Of Home Care Workers” 2021). Home health aides, “assist clients with personal care tasks (such as bathing and dressing), light housekeeping tasks (such as laundry and vacuuming), and tasks related to preparing and serving meals (such as grocery shopping and cooking). They may also provide some basic health care– related services (such as measuring vital signs, administering medications, or assisting with medical equipment) under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional” (“FYI: Different Types Of Home Care Workers” 2021).
Medicare only covers home health aide services if you also are getting skilled nursing or therapy. When a Medicare beneficiary suffers from a stroke and needs rehabilitative care as offered in a skilled nursing facility, home health and home health aide services can be a great option for those who want to cover in the comfort of their own home. Home health aide services can help alleviate any burdens friends and families experience from caregiving.
AARP. 2015. “Caregivers Of Older Adults: A Focused Look At Those Caring For Someone Age 50+”. AARP Public Policy Institute. https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/caregivers-of-older-adults-focused-look.pdf.
AARP. 2015. “Valuing The Invaluable”. Undeniable Progress, But Big Gaps Remain. AARP Public Policy Institute. https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/valuing-the-invaluable-2015-update-new.pdf.
“FYI: Different Types Of Home Care Workers”. 2021. The ALS Association. https://www.als.org/navigating-als/resources/fyi-different-types-home-care-workers.
Metlife Institute. 2006. “The Metlife Caregiving Cost Study: Productivity Losses To U.S. Business”. The MetLife Mature Market Institute® and National Alliance for Caregiving. https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Caregiver-Cost-Study.pdf.