The current economic cost of unpaid family care is about $67 billion

KEY TAKEAWAY: The current economic cost of unpaid family care is about $67 billion and includes reduced work hours and foregone earnings for Americans 20 to 64 years old who take time off from their jobs to help a loved one manage serious medical issues. This is based on population demographics and wage data from 2013.

As the U.S. population ages, the total annual cost of lost wages for unpaid family caregiving is on track to more than double, to reach $147 billion by 2050, a recent study suggests. This total economic cost is expected to surge as more elderly people need care, fewer family members are available to provide this care, and relatives who step in to help are increasingly higher-educated individuals with higher paying jobs, according to the study in Health Affairs.

Over the next fifty years the number of older Americans with disabilities is projected to increase by about two and a half times. The increase will likely be particularly prevalent among the oldest-old adults (people ages eighty and older). Their numbers will rise at a faster pace than those of any other age group, and their long-term services and supports needs are generally higher than those of the younger population. On the other hand, the number of potential caregivers will increase more slowly. 

These demographic trends, coupled with older adults’ preference to age in place and receive care from family and friends, suggest that the United States can expect a substantial increase in the share of working-age adults who provide essential care to their frail parents and other family members. To the extent that caregivers are at least in part selected on their ability to work and their earning capacity, this implies that future cohorts of family caregivers will likely include a higher share of workers and people with higher earning capacity. Insofar as some of them will stop working or scale back their work effort because of caregiving activities, future levels of related forgone earnings—that is, work-related opportunity costs—could increase substantially.

Opportunity?

While pharma continues to focus on patients, the end users, there is also a an opportunity to test messages with patients and caregivers about the qulity of care. If, for example, a certain prescription drug privides better outcomes a message could be crafted to talk about what that exactly means to family members.

Pharma continues to ignore caregivers but the cost and stress of caregiving are a real threat to Millennials who are in a finacial squeeze because of stagnent wages and student loans. By using dynamic content pharma can better communicate with decsion makers to help them better manage family members.

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