GRAND RAPIDS — A new study shows caring for elderly stroke survivors now costs nearly $40 billion per year with stroke survivors needing more than 20 hours of care per week — double the amount of other elderly patients.

A team of researchers that included experts from the University of Michigan and Jeffrey Wing, assistant professor for Public Health at Grand Valley State University, conducted the study using data from a national survey of Medicare beneficiaries.

They determined more than half of elderly stroke survivors receive help from a caregiver. On average, elderly stroke survivors require 22.3 hours of assistance per week. That’s nearly double what elderly Americans who have not had a stroke require, at an average of 11.8 hours of help per week.

Wing said it’s been known that stroke survivors cost more than other elderly individuals, but researchers didn’t know about all the pieces of those costs. “We were able to get a better estimate of the actual cost so family members know what to expect and insurance providers can know how to plan,” said Wing. “We identified that caregivers spend upward of a half-time job each week in help. This data is important as we move forward to help make improvements for the future.”

Wing said costs will continue to grow as the population ages, causing an excess burden for family members. The team recently presented the research at the International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

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