Caregiving by family or friends of people with medical or other needs is at once a deeply personal arrangement and something with significant implications for public policy, health care and the state budget.

A 2011 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute found that more than 42 million people in the United States served as family caregivers at any given point in 2009. In Connecticut, an estimated 486,000 people provided unpaid care to an adult with limitations in their daily activities at any given time in 2009; over the course of the year, 711,000 people did.

If all that care had to be provided by paid workers, it would cost $5.8 billion in Connecticut, the report estimated. And those figures don’t include the parents of children with special needs who have significant caregiving responsibilities that go beyond typical parenting roles.

Often, caregivers have little training to provide care. In many cases, they’re under great stress, neglect their own health and miss out on work and other activities.

And the need for caregivers is expected to grow in the coming years in Connecticut and other states as more people stay in their homes and communities as they age. State policymakers who are working on encouraging a shift toward caring for more people outside of nursing homes say that it will only happen with considerable reliance on unpaid caregivers.

Watch The Mirror Google Hangout with Rep. Catherine Abercrombie (D), Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R), and Claudio W. Gualtieri, associate state director, advocacy, AARP Connecticut. The discussion is moderated by Mirror Health Care Reporter Arielle Levin Becker.

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