Retirement Q&A: Costs of Being a Caregiver

Why should the average person be concerned with caregiving?

-At some point in your life, you likely will be a caregiver or need a caregiver. The efforts of caregivers enable millions of Americans of all ages to survive in their own homes. Today there are an estimated 42 million family caregivers in America—about one out of every five adults—and pressure on family members is rue to rise as the Boomer generation gets older. Almost two-thirds of family caregivers are women, most often for an older parent or spouse. Caregivers are an invisible army, often toiling without recognition or support, and at great personal cost.

What kinds of tasks do family caregivers perform?

-Caregiving can mean anything from help with basic tasks of daily living, like bathing and cooking, to increasingly sophisticated medical support. Family caregivers may perform tasks such as managing multiple medications, caring for wounds, operating specialized equipment, and even administering injections and IVs. Often, family caregivers do these tasks on top of holding down a paid job. These unpaid caregivers are the backbone of our nation’s long-term system, providing services worth more than $450 billion a year.

What are the greatest challenges facing caregivers?

-Research shows that family caregivers often sacrifice wages, retirement security and even their health, as they attempt to juggle responsibilities at home and in the workplace. One study found that losses in wages, Social Security and pensions due to career disruptions can exceed $320,000. Yet, unless society provides greater support to caregivers, their challenges are only going to get worse. In 2010, there were more than seven potential caregivers for everyone age 80-plus. By 2030, the ratio is projected to decline to 4-1; and by mid-century it could fall below 3 to 1.