Older woman embracing older man in wheelchair, photo by kali9/Getty Images

Caregiving

More than 12 million Americans—older and disabled adults and children—currently need assistance with eating, bathing, and managing medications. Much of the care needed by these individuals comes from family members, often at significant cost to their own health, career, and financial security.

Our initial caregiving work described the magnitude of "military caregiving" in the United States. An estimated 5.5 million informal caregivers — family members and friends — provide informal and unpaid care to an estimated 1.1 million injured or disabled military servicemembers and veterans. The work also identified gaps in the array of programs, policies, and initiatives designed to support military caregivers. The findings and recommendations are informing new policies and have led to the launch of a new congressional caucus, a multisector coalition to address caregiver needs, a peer-based social support network, and a national campaign urging employers to implement caregiver-friendly policies.

Caregiving is also a broader societal problem and is growing more urgent. In addition to the emotional and physical demands of caregiving, workforce productivity suffers as full-time workers often become full-time caregivers. By 2050, people needing help with basic activities will more than double in number, and the United States is woefully unprepared.

The caregiving system is fragmented, costly, and sometimes insufficient. Promising approaches to getting effective and affordable care to people in the setting they desire are being developed and tested, but they often focus on specific problems or populations, or can be hard to scale. A comprehensive approach is required across the caregiving landscape.

To help head off this looming crisis, RAND has launched the Caregiving Initiative. The initiative’s purpose is to take a comprehensive and integrative approach to caregiving by identifying, evaluating, and testing solutions across the caregiving landscape to determine how to best to meet the needs and improve the health and wellbeing of individuals who require care and support their families; increase access to and quality care; and reduce the economic burden associated with this care.

  • Family caregiver helping familymember into bed, photo by byryo/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Recognizing Family Caregivers as Part of the Health Care Team

    Recent shifts in health care practices have left family caregivers increasingly responsible for medical tasks. Given family caregivers' central role in medical care, there are efforts underway to improve family caregiver integration into the health care team, but there are barriers to effective integration and engagement.

Browse RAND Research on Long-Term Care