Costs of family caregiving for elderly with cancer are significant, often forgotten

Costs will continue to increase as elderly population doubles in next 30 years

Ann Arbor, MI - Elderly people who have recently undergone treatment for cancer need more care from family members, which translates nationally into an often-overlooked cost of nearly $1 billion a year, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Health System.

This first-of-its-kind study, published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, shows that informal - or family - caregiving costs are substantial and suggests that they be considered when estimating the total costs of cancer treatment for the elderly. Authors hope the research will allow policymakers to better assess the cost and quality tradeoffs among currently available caregiving options for elderly cancer patients undergoing treatment.

"We also hope that the results of our study will make clinicians more aware of the burdens that cancer treatment places on their elderly patients' families, who often provide this unpaid informal care, and motivate them to identify those patients and caregivers in need of additional support," says James Hayman, M.D., M.B.A., clinical assistant professor of radiation oncology at the U-M Medical School, and lead author on the study.

These caregiving issues will become increasingly important as the country's elderly population doubles in the next 30 years. And while heart disease is the leading cause of death in the elderly, cancer is a close second.

In the study, 7,443 people ages 70 and older from across the United States were surveyed. Of those, 6,422 reported having no history of cancer, 718 had been diagnosed with cancer but had not been treated for it within the past year, and 303 had a diagnosis of cancer and received treatment within the last year.

After controlling for health status and level of disability, those who reported that they had received treatment for cancer within the last year were receivin

Contact: Valerie Gliem
University of Michigan Health System

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