Background and Objectives
Older adults face significant long-term care and health care costs. But some of these costs can potentially be offset through family caregivers who may serve as substitutes for formal care or directly improve the care recipient’s health and reduce health care utilization and expenditures. This article reviews the current literature to determine whether it is possible through existing work to compare the costs of care for individuals with versus without family caregivers and, if not, where the data, measurement, and other methodological challenges lie.
Research Design and Methods
A mapping review of published works containing information on health care utilization and expenditures and caregiving was conducted. A narrative approach was used to review and identify methodological challenges in the literature.
Our review identified 47 articles that met our criteria and had information on caregiving and health care costs or utilization. Although findings were mixed, for the most part, having a family caregiver was associated with reduced health care utilization and a decreased risk of institutionalization however, the precise difference in health care expenditures for individuals with caregivers compared to those without was rarely examined, and findings were inconsistent across articles reviewed.
Discussion and Implications
The number of family caregivers providing care to loved ones is expected to grow with the aging of the Baby Boomers. Various programs and policies have been proposed to support these caregivers, but they could be costly. These costs can potentially be offset if family caregivers reduce health care spending. More research is needed, however, to quantify the savings stemming from family caregiving.