Can Family Caregivers Reduce Hospital Costs?

What are family caregivers worth? As the credit card commercial says, they are priceless. But they also have a financial value. And calculating that value is important as we consider ways to help them. For example, before Congress creates new government supports for family members who help aging parents or other relatives with disabilities, it will want to know if that assistance could reduce other government spending.

There are lots of ways to figure what caregiving is worth. For example, you could calculate what it would cost if all those family caregivers were paid market rates for the personal care they provide. AARP figures the economic value of family care could be as much as $470 billion annually. Or you could try to calculate the lifetime financial sacrifice of a daughter who abandons her career to help a relative. By one estimate, the lifetime cost to a 50-something woman who quits her job to care for an aging parent can be as much $300,000 in lost wages and retirement benefits.