65.7 million people provide unpaid care for an aging loved one on a routine basis. Almost one-third of family caregivers provide help for two people, typically elderly parents. From loss of wages to stress-related illnesses and exhaustion, caregiving takes a heavy toll. And it’s not easy for those receiving care either. They fear being a burden to their loved ones, and are often reluctant to ask for the help they need. Knowing the facts about the overwhelming physical, emotional and financial cost of caregiving can make it easier to consider senior living options outside the family home.
The Face of the Family Caregiver
The Impact of Caring for a Loved One
Loss of work time and career opportunities
Financial costs of caregiving
Physical and emotional issues of caregiving
Learn More About Senior Care
Daughters shoulder the responsibility of providing care for an aging parent twice as often as sons do. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 66% of family caregivers are female, and their average age is 48.
When men are involved, it’s usually with simpler tasks such as paying bills and arranging home care. But it’s the women who literally do the heavy lifting: bathing, toileting and dressing.
The older the senior loved one, the more hours the caregiver typically contributes. Most experts put the average at 19.3 to 21.9 hours each week.
With a family of her own to care for and a career to juggle, the impact on the family caregiver is significant.
In The 21st Century Caregiving Challenge, researchers found that family members had unrealistic expectations about how much time they would spend caregiving and how long it would last. They found the impact was “significantly greater than people expected.”
Here are some of the challenges the family caregiver faces:
- Time management: Competing demands for the family caregiver’s time are emotionally and physically exhausting. In addition to working outside the home at least part-time, caregivers have families of their own. According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 in 8 Americans between 40 and 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent.
- Loss of work time and career opportunities: Because many tasks a senior needs help with — transportation to multiple doctor appointments, the bank or the post office — often need to occur during the workday, the family caregiver must take time off work. The loss of career advancement opportunities and income adds up. Over time, researchers put the lost wages and benefits for a female caregiver at $324,044.
- Financial costs of caregiving: Family caregivers find their out-of-pocket expenses usually turn out to be higher than they planned. Food, gas, travel, medications and transportation cause them to dip into their own savings and retirement plans. When the caregiver lives near their loved one, they spend an average of $5,500 a year on caregiving-related expenses. If they live further away, it’s an average of $8,700 a year.
- Physical and emotional issues of caregiving: Stress, sadness, anger, frustration, exhaustion and impaired physical well-being are the daily reality for family caregivers. According to The American Psychological Association, adults who care for multiple generations at once have weaker immune systems, more frequent headaches, and greater numbers of back problems than non-caregiving peers. They also experience more depression and anxiety-related disorders.
If these challenges sound familiar, help is out there. Learn more about CCRCs or life plan communities, stand-alone assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing communities, and home care by downloading a complimentary copy of The Senior Care Continuum: A Quick Guide to the Options to learn more.
- Who’s Minding the Parents from West News Magazine, October 30, 2014
- Caregiving in the U.S., The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2009; Updated: November 2012
- Our Family, Our Future: The Heart of Long Term Care Planning, Genworth Financial and AgeWave national examination, November 2010
- MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers
- 10 Things Every Family Should Know About Aging With Dignity and Independence
- Family Caregiving, The American Psychological Association
- The Sandwich Generation, Rising Financial Burdens for Middle-Aged Americans, Pew Research Center
- Evercare in collaboration with The National Alliance for Caregiving Study of Family Caregivers – What they Spend, What They Sacrifice, November 2007