New AARP Report: Family Caregiving in Idaho Valued at $2 Billion

An Estimated 307,000 Idahoans Provided Care During 2009 Valued at More than One and Half Times Gem State's Entire Medicaid Budget

BOISE, Idaho, July 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report released today by AARP's Public Policy Institute found the total economic value of caring for an adult family member, partner or friend who suffered with chronic conditions or disabilities in Idaho reached an estimated $2 billion in 2009.  Nationally, the figured soared to $450 billion, up from the estimated $375 billion the study found in 2007.

The report, "Valuing the Invaluable:  The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving, 2011 Update," finds that the "average" caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside of the home and spends nearly 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to her mother over the course of nearly five years.  Almost two-thirds of family caregivers are women and more than eight in 10 are caring for a relative or friend age 50 or older.  

"The value of the care provided for a loved one in Idaho is more than the state's entire Medicaid budget, but to those receiving the care, it's invaluable," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho.  "They don't think of themselves as caregivers.  But the meals fixed for Mom and Dad, the help with visits to the doctor—that help and other long-term care assistance would cost $2 billion in Idaho alone if someone had to be hired to do it."

The value of the care provided in the Gem State is one and half times the entire Medicaid budget, roughly five times state spending for long-term care services under Medicaid and ten times spending on home and community based services.

The report also found that the care provided continues to increase in complexity.  The impact of shorter hospital stays and advances in home-based medical technologies plays out in the health tasks that family caregivers often carry out, including bandaging and wound care, tube feedings, managing catheters, giving injections or operating medical equipment.

This new level of care takes an increasing toll on the caregiver.  The report found that those who take on this unpaid role to help loved ones remain in their own homes and communities risk stress, depression, physical health problems, social isolation, competing demands and financial hardship and thus, are vulnerable themselves.

"The overwhelming majority of Idahoans want to remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible - family caregiving is a key to making that possible," added Wordelman.  "Many caregivers in Idaho may be 'hidden patients' themselves, often needing support and care to address the negative impact their loved one's illness or disability is having on them."

In summary, the report says, "Family caregivers are an essential part of the workforce to maintain the health care and LTSS (long-term services and supports) systems for the growing number of people with complex chronic care needs.  Family caregiving has been shown to help delay or prevent the use of nursing home care.  There is also growing recognition of the value of family members to the delivery of health care, and the ways in which families influence health care decisions, treatments and outcomes."  

The report includes several recommendations to assist caregivers, including expanding funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP); providing adequate funding for respite programs, including the Lifespan Respite Care Act; promoting new models of care that are person- and family-centered and engage the caregiver as a partner and member of the care team and also integrate the different elements of care—such as primary health care and long-term services and supports; and, promoting the expansion of consumer-directed models in publicly-funded home- and community-based services programs that permit payment of family caregivers.

The full report, "Valuing the Invaluable:  The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving, 2011 Update," is available at http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-07-2011/valuing-the-invaluable.html.

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with over 180,000 members.

Follow us on Twitter @AARPIdaho and Facebook: AARP Idaho

SOURCE AARP Idaho

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