A report released Monday by AARP’s Public Policy Institute put the value of unpaid care for a friend or family member at $450 billion in 2009.
By comparison, that’s more than the total 2009 sales of Wal-Mart, and more than the combined 2009 sales of Toyota, Ford and Daimler, according to AARP.
The report, “Valuing the Invaluable,” found that at any given time, more than 42 million family caregivers are providing care to an adult, and about 61 million provided care at some time during the year.
The value of unpaid care increased 21% between 2007 and 2009, in part due to an increase in the number of caregivers (which increased 23%) and hours of care (which increased 9%). An increase in the overall value of care from $10.10 per hour in 2007 to $11.16 in 2009 also added to the higher value of unpaid care.
Almost two-thirds of caregivers are women and more than 80% are caring for a friend or relative who is at least 50 years old.
“Most caregivers don’t think of what they’re doing as work,” Susan Reinhard, senior vice president for Public Policy at AARP, said in a statement. “They think of it as what families do for each other. They don’t think of themselves as caregivers.”
More than one-quarter of caregivers reported suffering a financial hardship as a result of their caregiving duties, and the recession led 24% of caregivers to cut back on care-related spending. More than 40% of caregivers spend more than $5,000 per year on caregiving expenses.
Almost 70% of caregivers reported having to adjust their work schedule to accommodate caregiving duties, including quitting work entirely in some cases. This is especially dangerous to caregivers as it affects their ability to save for their own future needs, but “they also can lose job security and career mobility, and employment benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings.” The lifetime income-related losses for caregivers who leave the workforce are “about $115,900 in wages, $137,980 in Social Security benefits, and conservatively $50,000 in pension benefits.”