I am driven to find new ways to support family caregivers

When we hear the phrase long-term care, we often think of a nursing home or some other health care provider. However, 85 percent of the care given to older adults—including those with different stages of dementia—comes from family members, not from a nursing home or other health care provider. The number of adults able to provide that care is expected to drop dramatically in the next 20 or 30 years.

Joseph Gaugler
“There are 250,000 people in Minnesota caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease. The economic value of family caregiving in Minnesota for Alzheimer’s alone is that of a Fortune 500 company.” Joseph Gaugler, Professor Click to tweet

Joseph Gaugler is dedicated to finding ways to support family members who provide this critical care. He is analyzing technology to assist in monitoring those with dementia, helping families during the transition to nursing homes, and trying to embed a family support program as part of adult day services.

The economy of caregiving

2007 2009 2013 2013 $375B $450B $470B $477B Value of care by family and informal caregivers Walmart sales

Ten years ago, the value of care provided by family and informal caregivers for aging adults nationwide was $375 billion. That increased to $450 billion in 2009 and to $470 billion in 2013. For comparison, in 2013 sales from the world’s largest company, Walmart, were $477 billion.

The shrinking caregiver ‘workforce’

Roughly 85 percent of the assistance older adults receive in the United States comes from family members, Gaugler says. But our demographics are about to change dramatically. According to one estimate, over the next 40 years, the number of family caregivers available on average for aging adults will decline from just over seven to about three.

That’s why Gaugler is supporting family caregivers by helping them monitor those with dementia from afar, and by assisting them as they transition to using adult day services and nursing homes.


Outreach for families

Gaugler has a long-standing dedication to supporting caregivers. For 10 years he has held a conference for families to learn how to care for a loved one with memory loss. The conference is free, and has grown to about 300 attendees.

Says Gaugler: “To me, it’s an example of the land-grant mission. We’re providing these resources, taking what we find in terms of science, and then giving it to families so they can use it in their everyday lives.”

Learn more about the conference.

“The big problem I’m trying to solve is how we can best support these families in the future, given they are the core of the long-term care system in the United States.” Joseph Gaugler, Professor Click to tweet