Medicare Spouses, kids are caring for older patients, but they get little support
Nearly 9 out of 10 caregivers for older Americans are unpaid, and those individuals work longer hours and receive less government support than their paid counterparts, according to a new study.
Approximately 900,000 Medicare beneficiaries received support from 2.3 million caregivers in 2011, according to the study published in Health Affairs. Researchers analyzed data from Medicare beneficiaries who lived in community settings and died within one year of study enrollment.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. In 2015, roughly 34 million Americans had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the previous 12 months, according to figures from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
Unpaid end-of-life caregivers provide nearly double the hours of support per week compared to other caregivers, but they did not receive additional pay from government or private insurance, ac- cording to the Health Affairs study.
The study illustrated the heavy economic burden family caregivers can face when they provide end-of-life support and how the healthcare system relies on family members to take on that care, according to Katherine Ornstein, assistant professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and lead author of the study.
“We need to do more to make sure that our infrastructure is supporting (family caregiving) so that it can be done well and that the consequences for family members are not negative,” Ornstein said.
The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP calculated that unpaid care provided by friends or family members was valued at roughly $470 billion in 2013.