Despite the growing professional home care industry and relatively affordable rates, family caregivers still provide tens of billions of hours of unpaid care annually, a new report from AARP has found.
And that care is valued at an estimated $470 billion — more than both the total out-of-pocket spending on health care in the U.S. and total money spent on paid caregiving.
For home care providers, the takeaway from the AARP report — released last Thursday — should be the still gigantic market opportunity that exists in the U.S. for in-home care organizations that provide respite services. Respite care is temporary care specifically designed to give overworked and overstressed family caregivers a break.
In addition to that takeaway for providers, the AARP report provides further encouragement for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans looking to cover respite services as well.
As part of the ongoing expansion of MA, at least 77 plans will offer benefits targeting support for caregivers in 2020, according to Seattle-based actuarial consulting firm Milliman and the Better Medicare Alliance. It’s not known how many plans covered support for caregivers in 2019.
“This enormous group of people really requires our help and support if they are going to be able to continue to do their work,” Susan Reinhard, director of the AARP Public Policy Institute, said in a statement, “[Work that] is so fundamentally important to not just their family members, but to society as a whole.”
Home care providers and MA plans aren’t the only ones making moves to support unpaid family caregivers. More and more employers have likewise begun offering caregiver benefits as a way to improve employee performance and attendance.
Overall, roughly 32% of employees have voluntarily left a job because of their caregiving duties. Additionally, 80% claim their caregiving responsibilities impact their productivity at work, according to Harvard Business School.
Examples of major companies to launch caregiver benefits packages include Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX), Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) and TripAdvisor (Nasdaq: TRIP). So far, many companies have turned to third-party caregiving platforms, but traditional home care agencies are also trying to get a piece of the action.
“We definitely think there is an opportunity for our members to move forward and be in front of these companies,” Phil Bongiorno — former executive director for the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) — previously told Home Health Care News. “Some companies are providing an extensive paid-time-off benefit, but what if you just turned to home care providers to offer employees professional caregiving in the first place?”
Vicki Hoak was named HCAOA’s new executive director on Nov. 12.
Nearly one in four caregivers are millennials, according to the AARP report. Men make up 40% of caregivers, with individuals who represent multicultural communities also accounted for 40%.
Besides quantifying the value of family caregivers and breaking down demographics, the AARP report also noted that the level of informal care is changing, too. Generally, the type of care family caregivers are providing is increasingly becoming more complex, with examples being giving injections and caring for wounds.