When a loved one is aging, caregiving becomes a special focus.
Whether it’s memory assistance, help driving and running errands, or pitching in on the day-to-day activities around the house, it’s natural for family members to offer their time. But at what cost?
According to recent LIMRA research, 43 million Americans currently act as unpaid caregivers for family members. The AARP estimates that out-of-pocket costs of caring for family members total about $7,000 annually.
Plenty of family caregivers also have full-time careers to manage, and these careers aren’t always conducive to large periods of time away.
According to the study, 40% of caregivers had to take an unpaid leave of absence from work to tend to their family members.
One in four lost benefits because they had to spend so much time away, and many said they had to stop work entirely. Twenty-two percent said they quit voluntarily, while 18% were fired, and 13% said they opted for early retirement.
The unfortunate reality is that specialized home care is expensive. Many families can’t afford to hire a full- or even part-time caregiver. The personal connection they have to their loved one in need makes it more appealing to give care themselves.
And while plenty of employers have maternity or paternity leave plans in place, it’s much rarer to find paid family-leave options.
Changes in public policy may help offset the financial challenges caregivers face. In 2017, for example, Hawaii became the first state government to offer subsidies to working caregivers. The Kupuna Caregivers Program allots caregivers who work full-time jobs with money for health care, meals, transportation and in-home services for aging family members.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on elder care in the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging projects that most adults over 65 will require long-term care.
Hopefully, more plans like Hawaii’s will help caregivers provide the support and assistance their family members need.