The Top Five Price Tags for Caregiving

I will be the first to admit there is a priceless value of family caregiving that enables loved ones to stay in the comfort of  home.  

AARP Public Policy calculated that the savings to our national treasury for all the unpaid family care in 2009 is $450 Billion which is  greater than the national Medicaid budget.  Taken on an individual level that equates to one adult working, unpaid, a 18.2 hours weekly at caregiving duties above and beyond the paid work and daily family life.  No doubt squeezing out an extra 18 hours of work each week, which does not include driving time and shopping trips, is extracted from other aspects of life.  

Top five cost/benefits of caregiving:

  1. Increased health costs Unpaid caregivers working with employer benefits incur higher health costs by an estimated 8%.  Study after study concludes that the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of caregiving exacts a heavy price on the life of a caregiver.  Many caregivers feel alone, socially isolated from the support of their co-workers as they rush between all of life demands.  
  2. Absenteeism and absence management Caregivers have reduced productivity according to a study by The National Alliance on Caregiving and MetLife costing employers $33.6 billion annually.  Imagine sitting at work trying to meet a project deadline on an inadequate amount of sleep and distracting calls from home, making doctors appointments, picking up medications ….. the list goes on and one.  
  3. The proverbial double bind of lost wages  Sacrificed wages, Social Security contributions and diminished pensions when caregivers leave the job market to provide care full-time.  Most caregivers report having no other options since most residential care is only covered by insurance for an acute illness.  95% of American seniors are living on fixed incomes inadequate for private duty paid care at home. What seems like the best plan today may in fact be the most detrimental for a caregiver’s own needs as they age.  
  4. Sandwich Generation family budgeting  Adult children who assume caregiving responsibilities have lousy financial choices to make.  Many families find themselves funding college or training programs for their young adults around the same time the Grandparents are moving into the household.  Today’s multigenerational households face budget considerations on the level of value or moral judgements.  There are no right or wrong answers just difficult choices that impact the entire family.
  5. Passing up the opportunity to serve others   Financial realities are hard and real but so are the life-enriching experiences of family.  Family caregivers unselfishly allow other family members to participate in one of the most rewarding events life has to offer.  Our aging family members hold  the treasury of what came before us.  What makes each family unique and different.  Without our elders around us to tell the stories of bygone eras, all we have to pass forward to the future generations are the Hollywood productions of history.