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AARP: Family Caregivers Worth Nearly $10 Billion to Arizona

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 By Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ, Contact
August 31, 2011

PHOENIX - More than 1 million Arizonans are family caregivers, providing care valued at nearly $10 billion a year, according to a recent AARP report on the growth in unpaid care-giving.

Most caregivers are women who spend a good part of their week helping an adult relative, says Cynthia Fagyas, communications director for AARP Arizona.

"We find that the typical caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home. She provides about 20 hours of family care-giving, usually to an older parent."

Nationally, the study says, the meals, doctor visits and other long-term care provided by unpaid caregivers would cost 450 billion a year if someone had to be hired to do it.

The report also says the care provided has increased in complexity. Fagyas says caregivers are often deeply involved in activities usually performed by nurses.

"Injections, managing catheters, tube-feeding, bandaging, wound care. There's a whole variety of health care-type care-giving tasks."

The increased level of care, which the AARP report calls the "new normal," can wear down caregivers. Fagyas says they risk stress, depression, financial hardship and their own health problems.

"So, it's imperative that family caregivers have some free time, some time off to enjoy, to break away from their care-giving duties, to relax."

Caregivers typically don't think about the time they put in, she says, or what that time may be worth.

"Many times, they're caring for their older parent, so it's out of love, out of caring for their parent. They really don't think about it; it's something that they know they must and should do, and want to do."

Family caregivers have been shown to help delay or prevent the use of nursing home care, the report says, and have allowed older family members to remain in their homes and communities longer.

The full report is online at aarp.us.

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