AARP report finds value of unpaid family caregiving in Illinois hits over $17 billion



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With the economy continuing it’s downward turn, family caregivers are stepping up to the plate to help loved ones in need.

A new AARP report found the value of unpaid family caregiving in Illinois hits over $17 billion, more than a $1 billion increase since 2006. While nearly 1.5 million family and friends in the state provide care for relatives, that number climbs as high as 2.3 million when short-term caregivers are taken into account.

According to the AARP Public Policy Institute Report, nationally, the value of family caregiving is $375 billion - 7 percent higher than in 2006, when the estimated value was $350 billion. The value exceeds the $311 billion spent on Medicaid in 2007.

“Family caregivers are a vital and largely unrecognized part of Illinois’ and the nation’s health and long-term care system,” said Bob Gallo, Sr. State Director for AARP in Illinois. “We often overlook how much family and friends contribute–whether it’s picking up groceries each week or providing daily health care for their loved ones.”

The AARP report, “Valuing the Invaluable, The Economic Value of Family Caregiving, 2008 Update,” estimates that 34 million Americans provide more than 20 hours of care per week to another adult, making informal caregiving a cornerstone of U.S. health and long-term care.

“Family caregivers are likely to be stretched even further in today’s tumultuous economy,” added Gallo.

The AARP report notes that informal caregivers of people 50-plus spent an average of $5,531 out-of-pocket in 2007 to care for their loved ones. That spending is often coupled with lost workdays, wages, health insurance and retirement savings. More than one-third of informal caregivers are forced to quit their jobs or reduce their working hours, with women more likely to leave the labor force entirely. Caregivers also frequently struggle with health care bills and medical debt–and experience chronic stress. Even less noticed is the physical and emotional toll caregiving can take.

The AARP report makes several recommendations to assist caregivers, including adopting “family friendly” workplace policies; assessing caregivers’ needs and providing them with needed supports; expanding funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Lifespan Respite Care Act; and supporting family caregivers in chronic care coordination programs and care transitions.

http://www.aarp.org/

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