The costs of caring for a loved one

When one member of a family falls ill—an elderly parent, a spouse, or a child—and caregiving falls to another family member, it can significantly affect that person as well as the family as a whole. According to a May 12, 2016 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), it’s important to consider impacts on an extended family’s time, finances, and health in order to improve health both for patients and society at large.

While caregivers can find fulfillment and purpose in caring for a loved one, the responsibility can also have negative impacts—the caregiver may have to cut back on their work and their own physical and mental health may suffer, wrote co-authors Eve Wittenberg, senior research scientist in the Center for Health Decision Science, and Lisa Prosser, adjunct associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Members of caregivers’ immediate families may also be affected, either by emotional stress or financial burdens, say the authors.

“Full consideration of what’s happening to a family…during the illness of one of its members will allow us to care for all involved and develop interventions and policies to support them and, in turn, the patient,” they wrote.

Read the NEJM article: Health as a Family Affair