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The Financial and Emotional Rollercoaster of Caregiving


The burden of caring for a loved one has been in the news recently. Last year, AARP reported that in 2013, an estimated 40 million people acted as caregivers, assisting with at least one activity of daily living (ADL) and providing $470 billion in uncompensated care over 37 billion hours. That’s a sum greater than Belgium’s GDP in 2015. In fact, the total value of uncompensated care exceeded the total Medicare spend in that year by over $20 billion. And these figures don’t even begin to touch upon the emotional price of being a caregiver.

Caregivers sacrifice a great deal to support their loved ones. A Wall Street Journal feature published earlier this year examined the personal stories of caregivers supporting loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Many of the individuals profiled had to cut down on work hours or dip into retirement savings to care for family members. While the emotional drain must be debilitating for some, the financial costs are real for all.

Some caregivers may use retirement funds to support an ailing parent or loved one, but using those funds may  leave the caregiver’s financial future more insecure. In addition, as caregivers leave the workforce or decrease work hours, they pay less into Social Security and retirement plans—all while reducing their income as well as the likelihood they will make enough to save.

Indeed, the issue of future financial security for today’s caregivers was the topic of discussion at a recent Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing held on June 15. Testimony given during the hearing alluded to the fact that employers have the opportunity to support caregivers by offering flexible work schedules and telecommuting. Testimony during the discussion also noted that currently  many employers do not give employees unpaid time off legally mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act, much less offer these additional work arrangements.

Financial security and other issues facing caregivers will be tackled by the newly founded Who Cares Coalition, announced during the United States of Women Summit in Washington, D.C. last month. The group, comprised of, Caring Across Generations, and New America, creates “a unique partnership bringing together a corporation, advocacy campaign, and think tank to spearhead a broad-based social change movement redefining the cultural norms, behaviors, business practices, and policies around caregiving in the US,” according to a White House fact sheet. I look forward to reading this group’s policy proposals to minimize the burdens caregivers face.

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