The financial, opportunity and social costs and benefits of providing
support to frail older people are described within an economic framework.
Mentally and/or physically frail older people were identified through
screening interviews with random community samples of people aged 65 and
over in four UK areas: 884 frail older people living in private households
nominated key informal supporters and 650 of these supporters were
interviewed. Around half the supporters reported financial costs (43 per
or lost social opportunities (45 per cent). A minority of supporters had
their working hours or withdrawn from employment because of caregiving.
Nearly all supporters reported at least one social cost (92 per cent) and
identified at least one positive aspect of caregiving (95 per cent). Co-resident
supporters were more likely to report opportunity costs and loss of health
well-being. Daughters supporting a frail parent were generally most likely,
and friends or neighbours least likely, to report each type of cost. Supporters
of older people who were both mentally and physically frail reported
significantly greater opportunity and social costs. The benefits of caregiving
were not consistently related to co-residency, relationship of supporter
frailty type. Possible strategies for decreasing the costs and increasing
benefits of caregiving are discussed.