The Wall Street Journal yesterday published a good article on the costs that family caregivers face in caring for elders. It makes some very good points that we will discuss, but, of course, I cannot help adding a few of my own. 🙂
Some of the statistics referenced in the WSJ article are fairly amazing:
The percentage of adult children taking care of their parents has tripled since 1994, with nearly 10 million people who are 50 and older doing so in 2008 …
The financial toll on care providers who are 50 or older averages $303,880 per person in lost wages, pensions and Social Security benefits over their lifetime, due to leaving the work force early to care for a parent, according to the study. For women, the cost is higher: $324,044, with $142,693 in lost wages, $131,351 in lost Social Security benefits, and $50,000 in lost pension benefits or matching contributions to defined-benefit plans.
The problem with the second part of this set of statistics is that most family caregivers, by far, are women. So they are, indeed, suffering more financially — as well as physically and emotionally — than most males.
One of the researchers in the study makes a really critical point that a lot of family caregivers do not think about: “These were all people over 50, and these are their highest-earning years. They don’t have a lot of time to catch up.” That makes it all the more important to find a way to manage not just the physical and emotional strains of caregiving but the true, long-term costs.
But, let us not forget those non-financial costs. A study published last year by the same research sponsors pointed out that,
depression, hypertension, diabetes and pulmonary disease were among caregivers’ more-common health problems. They also experienced higher rates of stress, were more likely to smoke or drink alcoholic beverages, and were less likely to get preventive health screenings, including mammograms.
So, when you put these factors together, it more strongly than ever points to the need for family caregivers to obtain adequate respite care, that allows the family caregiver to continue to work outside the home. Even if the “net” wages to the family caregiver, after the costs of professional home care, are not large, the ability to maintain medical insurance and continue to build Social Security and pension benefits, as well as protect their own health, are huge benefits.
We have seen exactly this result with many of our own home care clients and their families, at Support For Home. Agree? Disagree? I would be delighted to hear from you on this critical issue.
Best wishes, Bert