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Calculating the Costs of Caregiving

GSSW profs study how workplace and social policies relate to caregivers’ financial strain

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Dottie planting at Earthlinks

Although informal caregiving is a cornerstone of the U.S. long-term care system, little is known about caregivers’ experience of financial strain or the extent to which organizational and public policies help alleviate strain among caregivers who are employed outside the home.

Graduate School of Social Work Assistant Professor Jennifer Greenfield and Leslie Hasche, associate professor and associate dean for academic affairs, set out to answer these questions through a recent pilot study of informal caregivers of older adults in Colorado. Funded by the University of Denver Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging, the study identified factors associated with caregiver financial strain, tested whether factors related to financial strain differed from those related to overall caregiver strain and positive aspects of caregiving, and assessed whether caregivers with access to workplace benefits and social programs report less financial strain than caregivers without access to these supports.

Just over half of respondents (N = 95) reported working, and 33 percent had either left the workforce or reduced their work hours to accommodate caregiving. Predictors of financial strain included the care recipient’s financial strain and the caregiver reducing or ceasing work. Caregivers who left work or reduced work hours reported higher overall caregiving strain and worse mental health than those whose employment status had not changed. Medicare may be protective to minimize caregivers’ need to reduce or cease work.