Measurement of informal care: an empirical study into the valid measurement of time spent on informal caregiving.

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Journal Article
Health Econ, 2006, 15 (5), pp. 447 - 460
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The incorporation of informal care into economic evaluations of health care is troublesome. The debate focuses on the valuation of time spent on informal caregiving, while time measurement, a related and may be even a more important issue, tends to be neglected. Valid time measurement is a necessary condition for the valuation of informal care. In this paper, two methods of time measurement are compared and evaluated: the diary, which is considered the gold standard, and the recall method, which is applied more often. The main objective of this comparison is to explore the validity of the measurement of time spent on providing informal care. In addition, this paper gives empirical evidence regarding the measurement of joint production and the separation between 'normal' housework and additional housework due to the care demands of the care recipients. Finally, the test-retest stability for the recall method is assessed. A total of 199 persons giving informal care to a heterogeneous population of care recipients completed the diary and the recall questionnaire. Corrected for joint production, informal caregivers spent almost 5.8 h a day on providing informal care. If one assumes that respondents take into account joint production when completing the recall questionnaire, the recall method is a valid instrument to measure time spent on providing informal care compared to the diary. Otherwise, the recall method is likely to overestimate the time spent on providing informal care. Moreover, the recall method proves to be unstable over time. This could be due to learning effects from completing a diary.
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