Study objective: To obtain nationally representative estimates of the additional time, and related cost, of unpaid family caregiving (informal caregiving) associated with chronic lung disease among older Americans.
Design: Multivariable regression models using data from the 1993 Asset and Health Dynamics Study, a nationally representative survey of people ≥ 70 years old (n = 7,443).
Participants: National population-based sample of the community-dwelling elderly.
Measurements: Weekly hours of informal caregiving, and imputed cost of caregiver time, for community-dwelling elderly who reported the following: (1) no lung disease, (2) lung disease without associated activity limitations, or (3) lung disease with associated activity limitations.
Results: After adjusting for sociodemographic variables, potential caregiver network, and comorbid conditions, individuals with chronic lung disease and associated activity limitations (n = 403) received an additional 5.1 h/wk of informal care when compared to those with no lung disease (n = 6,593; p < 0.001). The associated additional yearly cost of informal care per case was $2,200. This represents a national annual cost of informal caregiving for chronic lung disease of > $2 billion.
Conclusions: The quantity and associated economic cost of informal caregiving for elderly individuals with chronic lung disease are substantial. These costs to families and society must be accounted for if the full societal costs of chronic lung disease are to be calculated. Pulmonary physicians caring for elderly individuals with chronic lung disease should be mindful of the importance of informal care for the well-being of their patients, as well as the potential for significant burden on those (often elderly) individuals providing the care.