The Cost of Family Caregiving

cost of caregivingThe number of family caregivers has tripled over the past 15 years. This is partly due to the fact that today, there are more than 6 million Americans over the age of 85, and that number is only increasing. Plus, many families find that when faced with the decision of providing care themselves or moving a loved one to an assisted living community, they believe that providing the care themselves will be more cost-effective. They also believe that they can provide better, more compassionate care than a facility.

However, the cost of keeping a loved one at home can be very high, too. Caregivers need to consider all the different ways providing care will affect their lives, not only financially, but also physically and emotionally, too.

The Burdens on Family Caregivers

While caregiving can be a rewarding experience for family members, it can also take quite a toll on their own health and financial state. Based on a 2013 study from the AARP, It’s estimated that the cost of caregiving was around $470 billion, and that number surpasses annual spending of out-of-pocket costs and Medicaid. Unpaid caregivers provide roughly 20 hours each week of care to a loved one, and some of the tasks involved are medical duties a trained professional is comfortable with, like wound care and giving injections.

Plus, almost two-thirds of family caregivers also work full or part-time jobs in addition to caring for their loved ones. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, along with neglecting to take care of their own health.

Before taking on the role of caregiving, family members need to consider some of the ways their lives will be affected. Because caregiving can become practically a full time job in itself, many caregivers end up taking a leave of absence, cutting back their hours or retiring from the workforce early to spend more time on caregiving duties. This leads to lost wages and no way for them to save for their own futures. In fact, a study from MetLife reports that the average amount of lost wages for the typical female caregiver is around $143,000, and that amount doesn’t even include the fact that they may have given up a pension and Social Security benefits.

New programs are being introduced in an effort to offer better care to those providing family caregiving duties; after all, these caregivers are essentially saving the Medicare system billions of dollars each year. Some groups say Congress should provide more tax credits to those with dependent relatives, or that family caregivers should receive funds through Medicaid or other publicly funded programs. However, these are all just ideas at this point in time.

It’s important to consider all your options when you come to the realization that your loved one can no longer live alone safely, or when their healthcare needs become more than you can handle. Making the transition to an assisted living community is often the right choice, and caregivers shouldn’t feel like they are “giving up” or feel guilty about this decision. Most elders find that after moving to a senior living community, they are well taken care of and are healthier and happier than they’ve been in years.

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