Family caregivers are the backbone of the healthcare system and play an integral role in the healthcare continuum, providing a great deal of unpaid care (estimated at more than $25 billion in 2009).
Family caregivers take on the duty of providing care for an ill or dying loved-one at great cost to themselves personally, financially and in terms of their own health and well-being. In addition to psychological, emotional, spiritual and personal care, family caregivers may provide medical care such as administration of medications and injections, as well as services and care coordination. They carry out all of these responsibilities, under great stress and concern for their loved one, in an environment where they typically have little support from healthcare professionals.
Caring for a loved one in the advanced stages of cancer or other disease can also mean assuming the cost of some prescription and non-prescription medications, nutritional supplements, hygienic products, dressings, adapted devices (such as special beds and other furniture), transportation and parking related to medical appointments, among many other related requirements. In practice, a caregiver’s out-of-pocket burden can be over $1,000 a month, and this does not include the lost income related to absence from work in order to provide care.
A family caregiver loses approximately 23% of their workable hours to provide care and support, which can result in lost wages. In 2009, for new cancer cases, the estimated wage loss was $3.18 billion. Taking on such an important job should be made easier through job-protected leave for family caregivers.