Family Caregivers: Helping Health Care’s Invisible Workforce

December 3, 2018

Most likely, we all know someone who cares for an aging or vulnerable family member. That they are part of a much larger, 44 million person sector of the U.S. working economy, is probably less known. This group makes up what is known as “family caregivers,” and the job, as it were, is unpaid. The estimated value of services provided by unpaid family caregivers is $470 billion per year. Family caregivers provide companionship, help with the activities of daily living (ADLs), and even replace health care professionals who are trained to provide care in the home.

Family caregivers are health care’s invisible workforce of adult children, spouses and partners caring for loved ones who are living with serious illness often while juggling full-time jobs and raising children. Many caregivers suffer from depression, poor health and social isolation, making them patients themselves. America’s family caregivers need to know they’re not on their own. What can we do as a community and as a company to address this?

Important factors at play:   

  • Palliative care: As baby boomers age, the need for family caregivers will increase. Yet, there is only one palliative care physician per 1,200 people with serious illness in the United States, so there will be  increased pressure on family caregivers to fill the gap. This is where we can call on health care entities to clinics to collaborate to develop new models that integrate palliative care, social supports and resources for family caregivers.
  • Change your focus: Once we acknowledge family caregivers as patients with specific needs, we can then begin to gather the resources to help them, too. Serious illness impacts the well-being of the entire family.
  • Employees onboard! As more employees struggle with caregiver demands, employers can play a significant role in helping them cope.

Cambia’s role

For companies like Cambia Health Solutions, the focus is on getting caregivers out of the shadows and connected to palliative care resources and the community. One way the company is doing this is through its Cambia and Regence Employees Palliative Care Employee Resource Group (CARE PC ERG), which provides education and support to those personally affected by serious illness (whether a patient or caregiver). Read a new article in Modern Healthcare, Family Caregivers: Helping Healthcare's Invisible Workforce, by Peggy Maguire on how we are developing and investing in a holistic approach to supporting family caregivers.