An estimated 44 million Americans age 18 and older provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities who live in the community.1 The value of this unpaid labor force is estimated to be at least $306 billion annually,2 nearly double the combined costs of home health care ($43 billion) and nursing home care ($115 billion).3
Most older persons with long-term care needs—65%—rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance.1 Another 30% will supplement family care with assistance from paid providers.2 Care provided by family and friends can determine whether older persons can remain at home. In fact, 50% of the elderly who have a long-term care need but no family available to care for them are in nursing homes, while only 7% who have a family caregiver are in institutional settings.3
Many of the diseases and disorders that affect the brain are progressive and their incidence and prevalence increase with age. Caring for those with adult-onset brain impairments frequently becomes a 24-hour, 7-day a week role. As the population ages, the need for care and for understanding the impact of these disorders on families becomes even more pressing.
My son Neil was seventeen when he sustained a traumatic brain injury at the hands of a drunk driver who hit him and his girlfriend Trista as they were walking. Trista was killed. That was ten years ago.