Uncovering the contribution, costs and economic value of family caregiving
What did we do?
We’re working to find out the contribution that family carers make during end-of-life care. Carers’ contribution is likely to substantially increase in the last three months of life and currently there’s no quantification of the size and economic impact of a carer’s contribution: it remains largely ‘invisible’ at government, commissioner and service provider level.
Why was it important?
Previous research in this area indicates that end-of-life carers feel unheard and unsupported; often palliative home care services do not recognise the importance of carers as co-workers and do not support them sufficiently to support the patient. Providing information on end-of-life caregivers and what they contribute will promote their visibility to commissioners and service providers which can enhance support for carers. This information is needed to plan and invest in carers to help them support patients, particularly as the delivery of care continues to move into the community.
How did we do it?
After analysing and reporting on the survey results we now have a profile of the cancer carer population. We are still working with the data but hope to soon report:
- An estimate of the financial value that the care given by family members contributes to society.
- Which types of carers may be most in need of support.
Who did we work with?
While we have drawn some initial findings from the survey responses, there will be more detailed outcomes and findings available once the final analysis is complete in 2017. Of those who responded to our survey, 44.5% were the spouse or partner of the person being cared for, 50.6% lived with the patient and 33.7% lived within 30 minutes of the patient. 53.7% were employed at the time, and 36.4% were retired. The majority of participants were female (64.2%), white (95.7%), with a median age of 60 years.
Our main finding is that carers spend an average of 69 hours and 30 minutes per week caring for their loved one in the last three months of life, which represents a massive caring commitment. This time commitment resulted in changes to employment hours and subsequent loss of earnings for many carers.
In addition to this, there are significant financial burdens for carers: 76.1% of carers reported spending money out of their own pockets during the last three months of life. Costs such as private nursing care, medication, equipment, child care and respite resulted in an average £370 out-of-pocket expenses per patient on top of the care that is already provided by NHS and other free services.
We can see from these results that the cost of informal caring is higher than has been previously estimated and we can now more accurately estimate the full economic value of family caregiving in the UK.