A National Study of the Quantity and Cost of Informal Caregiving for the Elderly with Stroke
Background: As the US population ages, increased stroke incidence will result in higher stroke-associated costs. While estimates of direct costs exist, little information is available regarding informal caregiving costs for stroke patients. Objective: To determine a nationally representative estimate of the quantity and cost of informal caregiving for elderly stroke patients. Methods: We used data from the first wave (1993) of the Asset and Health Dynamics (AHEAD) Study, a longitudinal study of people over 70 living in the community, to determine average weekly hours of informal caregiving. Multivariate and logistic regression analyses were performed to examine association of stroke and other covariates and assess the probability of receiving informal care. Average annual cost for informal caregiving was calculated. Results: Of the 7443 respondents, 656 (6%) reported a history of stroke. Of those, 375 (57%) reported stroke-related health problems (SRHP). After adjusting for cormorbid conditions, social support and sociodemographics, the proportion of patients receiving informal care increased with stroke severity, and there was a significant association of weekly hours of caregiving with stroke category (p<0.01). Using the mean 1998 wage for a home health aide ($8.20/hr.) as the value for family caregiver time, the expected yearly caregiving cost per stroke ranged from $3500 to $7600, which would result in an annual cost of more than $5.7 billion for stroke-related informal caregiving in the US. Conclusions:The economic burden of informal caregiving following stroke has not been studied previously. Informal caregiving occurs frequently; associated costs are substantial and should be considered when estimating the cost of stroke treatment.