Health Affairs: A Study Of Family Caregiver Burden And The Imperative Of Practice Change To Address Family Caregivers’ Unmet Needs



By Jill Slaboda, Robin Fail, Gergory Norman, Diane E. Meier

An estimated 15 million family caregivers in the US provide unpaid care for a loved one with dementia. Despite the fact that the physical and emotional toll on family caregivers is well-documented, little has been done to integrate caregiver support into the routine care of dementia patients. Poor caregiver well-being may not only matter for the patient and caregiver, but for health systems’ bottom line as well. Caregiver burden and fatigue exacerbate the dementia patients’ high hospital and emergency department use. In fact, over five years, the average cost of care for a person with dementia was found to be more than 80 percent higher than the cost of care for a patient with heart disease or cancer. As the shift to value-based payment structures accelerates, understanding the root of these high costs and adopting strategies to mitigate them must become a priority for risk-bearing health care entities hoping to meet quality care standards and remain financially viable.