The Need for Caregiver Programs

The backbone of our country’s long-term, home, and community-based care system is the family caregiver. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are more than 60 million family caregivers in the United States providing care for parents, relatives, spouses, and children. The Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update reports the estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $470 billion in 2013, up from an estimated $450 billion in 2009. That is more than twice what is spent nationwide on nursing homes and paid home care combined. 

Currently, family caregivers receive little training on how to deliver complicated care, are not treated as partners in their loved one’s care, and not encouraged to maintain their own health. Not surprisingly, research shows that family caregivers are at increased risk for health, emotional, financial, and work-related problems. 

We believe its a simple matter of common sense to support family caregivers. Research shows us that by providing tailored supports we can reduce levels of stress, increase positive aspects of care, and assure that families remain the backbone of long-term care. Supporting caregivers will allow individuals with long-term care needs to safely remain in their own homes for longer periods of time and maintain the health and quality of life for both the caregiver and care recipient. Increasing evidence also shows that providing comprehensive supports to family caregivers reduces or delays nursing home placement and is, therefore, cost effective. 

For most families, involvement in a tailored and flexible counseling and training program is highly beneficial. A growing number of counseling and support interventions have been tested in randomized control clinical trials and found to significantly improve the well-being of family caregivers, reduce levels of clinical depression, and delay nursing home placement. Implementation of these programs on a widespread basis is an important step in the direction of providing comprehensive supports.