Caring for an adult family member has become the new normal for more than one million Missourians.

Press Release from the Missouri News Service

Caring for an adult family member has become the “new normal” for more than one million Missourians and, surprisingly, most don’t think of themselves as “caregivers”. However, a new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute finds that their help would cost $8.9 billion a year if someone else had to do it.

Craig Eichelman, senior state director of AARP Missouri, says family caregivers are an essential part of the health care and support system for the growing number of people with complex chronic care needs.

“I think when you put a price tag on it, it really makes you pause and think about what would life be like for those who provide health care if this type of family support wasn’t available.”

The report finds the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works full-time and spends another 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to her mother over the course of nearly five years. Almost two-thirds of family caregivers are women, and more than eight in 10 are caring for a relative or friend age 50 or older.

Eichelman says the report found that those who take on this unpaid role to help loved ones are many times “hidden patients” themselves.

“The caregiver, vulnerable themselves to stress and their own health issues and trying to balance their own life, raising their kids and taking care of their parents, that is not healthy for them either.”

Eichelman says the role of the family caregiver continues to increase in complexity. That’s because shorter hospital stays and advances in home-based medical technologies put more responsibility on caregivers, who often have to handle tasks such injections, tube feedings or managing catheters.