In a recent report, Valuing the Invaluable, 2015 Update, the AARP estimated the value of family caregiving in the United States in 2013 at $470 billion (http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/valuing-the-invaluable-2015-update-new.pdf). That’s more than total Medicaid spending, more than the total of Americans’ out-of-pocket medical expenses, and almost as much as Walmart’s sales for that year. The way Semafores sees things, this number is undoubtedly too low. The AARP is concerned with issues affecting older Americans and the definition of family caregiver that they used for this study included only those people who provided unpaid care for elderly or disabled adults. Another report, Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, from the AARP, in association with the National Alliance for Caregiving, looked at family caregiving in a wider context and found that 10.2 million people provided care for children with special needs, often caring for an adult as well. (http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/caregiving-in-the-united-states-2015-executive-summary-revised.pdf). The value of this care provided to children was not even considered in the economic impact study.
As the title of the AARP report acknowledges, the value of family caregiving can’t really be expressed by any number, now matter how large it may be. While the impact of family caregiving on the economy can be quantified, the value of caregiving to the cared-for and to their carers goes beyond the numbers. A family caregiver can provide comfort and dignity that may be lost in an institutional setting, and can help those being cared for maintain or develop independence.
For some, becoming a family caregiver is an economic necessity, but for many being a family caregiver is a choice, made out of love or a sense of duty. Being a family caregiver can be costly, not only in terms of money, but in terms of what must be given up to do it. Family caregiving can be damaging to the caregivers careers, relationships, and sometimes even their health. The reward is knowing that they have helped someone that they love lead a fuller and richer life than would have otherwise been possible.
At Semafores we understand the problems of family caregivers first hand, because the company grew out of the founder’s personal experience with caregiving. Our goal is to help family caregivers by providing tools to keep them organized, encouraged, and connected to the people in the their lives who want to help. Curi™ will do all these things with an easy-to-use mobile platform. We believe it will make caregiving more effective, especially when the carer is in a supporting role, helping their cared-for be independent. We also believe that using Curi™ will mitigate the negative effects that caregiving can have on the caregiver by reducing stress and enabling better self-care.
Semafores is a for-profit company. We intend to make money from Curi™. We think that our fresh ideas and hard work should be rewarded. Like everyone, we want financial security for ourselves, and a legacy to leave to our children. Money is not, however, the reason we do what we do. It is only a side benefit. More than anything else, we want to help people who have the same kinds of problems that we have experienced in our own lives. The biggest measure of our success will never be cash in hand. It will be knowing that what we’ve created has made a positive difference in the lives of the people who use it.