Annual medical costs for a caregiver who looks after a relative with Alzheimer’s disease may be about $4,800 higher than the annual costs for a non-caregiver of the same age.
Richard Schulz and Thomas Cook, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, have included that finding in a study presented recently at a gerontology conference in Boston.
The researchers looked at 583 family caregivers providing in-home care. The mean age of the caregivers was about 61, and the mean age of the care recipients was about 78.
The researchers followed the caregivers in the study for 18 months. The researchers looked at caregivers’ assessments of their own health and the caregivers’ use of medical services.
The recipients’ needed more help with activities of daily living as time went on, and the caregivers spent more time seeing doctors and going to hospitals with their own health problems.
Caregivers used emergency rooms at a rate of 5.5 visits per month per 100 caregivers during the last month of the study, up from 3.2 visits per month per 100 caregivers at the beginning of the study.
Similarly, the number of caregivers who needed other types of hospital care increased to 7 visits per month per 100 caregivers during the last month of the study, up from 3 visits per month per 100 caregivers.
“The interaction of measures of care recipient decline and caregiver health care use was most striking among those caregivers who had poor or fair self-reported health status at baseline,” the researchers write. “This finding suggests that the caregiver group most vulnerable to the effects of increasing dependence of the care recipient is those with lower self-reported health.”
The average annual excess care cost for a caregiver was $4,766, the researchers estimate.