AARP: Family Caregiving Surpasses Medicaid Spending By $21 Billion

Anyone questioning the need to address America's mounting caregiver crisis need only look at AARP's most recently released study to understand its severity and magnitude.

Approximately 40 million family caregivers provided an estimated $470 billion in unpaid services and care to their loved ones in 2013, surpassing Medicaid spending by $21 billion and nearly equaling the annual sales ($469 billion) of the four largest tech companies combined (i.e. Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft).

Spending a total of 37 billion hours administering care (an average of 18 hours per week) over the course of the year, 46 percent of family caregivers provided complex care activities such as wound care, managing medications, giving injections and operating medical equipment. Furthermore, more than half of them reported being overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs, and four in 10 reported a moderate to high degree of financial strain as a result.

The study also found that 60 percent of all family caregivers in 2014 were also juggling a full- or part-time job and that one in five workers leave the workforce earlier than they had planned in order to take care of a loved one -- costing them an average of $300,000 in income and benefits over their lifetime.

To say that these numbers are staggering is an understatement -- and irrefutable proof that the financial and emotional challenges of caregivers should be taken seriously. In fact, this is the second caregiving study AARP has released within two months; their Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report highlighted the lack of caregiver support and preparedness, as well as the plummeting family caregiver-to-senior ratio.

"We need multiple approaches to better help caregiving families, including such things as tax credits, improved workplace flexibility, respite care, home care services, and better training of family caregivers," said Susan Reinhard, Senior Vice President and Director of AARP's Public Policy Institute, in a statement.

While increasing awareness of the strain that is all too often put on family caregivers is an important first step, we have a long way to go to alleviate their burden, which is why CareLinx remains committed to connecting families with professional, affordable caregivers who can help their loved ones age in place comfortably.

This post originally appeared on CareLinx's website under "Sherwin's Thoughts." Follow CareLinx on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.