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Keywords:

  • Alcoholism;
  • care-giver burden;
  • cost per QALY;
  • financial burden;
  • QALY;
  • quality of life

Abstract

Aims

The study assessed the alcoholism-related financial burden borne by informal care-givers and relatives of German alcoholic patients.

Design

By using an exploratory approach, care-giver burden was assessed both prior to and 12 months after detoxification and withdrawal. Quality-of-life data for care-givers collected during follow-up were used to calculate the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained by alcoholics’ family members while their relatives are undergoing treatment.

Participants

Forty-eight informal care-givers and relatives of alcoholic patients.

Setting

In-patient and out-patient departments of three psychiatric university hospitals in Germany.

Measurements

Expenditures of families related directly to the addiction disorder of alcoholic patients, quality of life of care-givers, relapses of patients.

Findings

Families’ expenditures related directly to their addicted member's alcoholism decreased from an average of €676.44 per month (or 20.2% of the total pre-tax family income) at baseline to an average of €145.40 per month at 12 months after the beginning of treatment. The average time spent caring for the affected family member was reduced from 32.3 hours per month to 8.2 hours per month (P = 0.0109), and quality-of-life total scores increased from 60.6 to 68.0. The total gain in QALYs for family members was 0.108. When weighed against the average cost of the alcoholism treatment, the cost of one QALY for care-giving family members was €20 398 on average.

Conclusions

Among the families of German alcoholics who receive detoxification, there is a substantial reduction in family expenditures, time spent caring and an increase in quality of life at 1 year. These are important but often neglected additional measures of the burden on family members and also treatment benefits.