Rethinking Caregiving in America: A Framework for Growth and Sustainability

March 22, 2024

The case for supporting family caregivers as an integral part of the care team, with examples of innovation from Geisinger, Rush University Medical Center, and Duke University School of Nursing.

// By Daniel Fell //

Daniel Fell is senior vice president, Healthcare at BVKAlmost 48 million adults in the U.S. care for another family member — an estimate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closely tracks and now calls “a public health issue” for millions of Americans receiving care, as well as those providing the care.

Understanding the Challenge

The significance of the caregiving market to the health care industry — and the economy in general — can’t be overstated. Research conducted by AARP estimates the unpaid work provided by family caregivers at 36 billion hours or $600 billion, more than all the out-of-pocket health care spending in 2021.

Approximately 58 million adults are 65 or older today. That’s about 17 percent of the population, a number expected to grow to 22 percent by 2040. Without question, the aging of America will continue to have a large impact on our society — from the economy in general, to the health care industry specifically. But volunteer caregiving as an industry remains a largely fragmented and disjointed ecosystem.

While some health systems and community organizations offer basic education and limited resources to caregivers, it’s not an area of high strategic priority or significant investment for most health care executives or industry leaders.

But given industry trends such as the rising costs in health care delivery, the shortages of health care professionals (especially in rural areas), the growing demand for chronic-care management, and the requirements to shift more care into the home, there are good reasons for health care leaders to rethink the importance of this cohort and find ways to leverage their presence in more impactful ways.

Here, we take a quick look at recent initiatives led by the federal government, share some programs developed by forward-thinking health systems, and propose a framework based on technology that health care executives can use to reimagine the role of caregivers.

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