Family Caregiving Valued at $450 Billion in 2009, Exceeded Wal-Mart’s Total Sales

Family caregiving is becoming a more and more common phenomenon with the rise in numbers of American seniors, and a 2011 AARP study says the value of unpaid family caregiving reached $450 billion in 2009.

Recent data shows one in eight Americans are 65 or older, with the number of seniors doubling between 2000 and 2030; the number of senior household is expected to increase 35% by 2020 from 2010 figures. Many older Americans embrace their independence and prefer receiving care at home and aging in place rather than going to a nursing facility, says AARP; this has contributed to the rise in caregiving in general, as well as family caregiving and the costs associated with it.

To put the costs of caregiving in context, the AARP paper, Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update – The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving, says that in 2009, approximately one in four adults gave care valued at an estimated $450 billion—more than Wal-mart’s total 2009 sales.

This figure represents a 21% increase from what was found in a 2007 study, and reflects the estimated 61.6 million Americans who provided care in 2009.

“We know most people want to remain in their own homes and communities as they get older. Family caregiving is key to making that possible,” says Susan Reinhard, Senior Vice President for Public Policy at AARP.

The AARP report comes after a 2010 MetLife study found that caregiving represents a $3 trillion drain on adult children’s wallets when factoring in lost wages due to missing work, and how that affects retirement and Social Security contributions.

AARP also mentions the levels and kinds of care offered by caregivers, which has grown more complex over the years, and the toll this care can take on the health and well-being of caregivers.

“Family caregivers are an essential part of the workforce to maintain the health care and long-term services and supports systems for the growing number of people with complex chronic care needs,” says the report. “Family caregiving has been shown to help delay or prevent the use of nursing home care.”

View the full report here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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