Most people know a family in which someone has dementia or another chronic condition that affects their ability to care for themselves. That means most of us know someone who is caring for that friend or relative, often at significant cost to their own health, career, and financial security. At some point, the person giving or receiving care may be you.
RAND recognizes that caregiving support is in short supply for these family caregivers and the more than 12 million Americans who need their help with eating, bathing, or managing medications. 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. Most efforts to date have been done in isolation: For example, some have focused only on family members who provide care; some on the formal caregiving workforce; and some have looked only at one population in need of care. Promising approaches to getting effective and affordable care to people in the setting they desire are being developed and tested. But most have not been well integrated into the broader health care and social systems, reducing their potential impact.
We need a comprehensive approach that explores solutions across the caregiving landscape—from making care more affordable, to supporting family caregivers, to getting high-quality care to people in the setting they desire. To help head off this looming crisis, RAND has launched the Caregiving Initiative.