By Roberta L. Nestor
Each year our President signs a proclamation declaring November as National Family Caregivers Month. This year’s proclamation begins with: “Selfless Americans across our country consistently dedicate themselves and their resources to providing ailing and aging loved ones with the care and support they need to live in their own homes and communities. Throughout National Family Caregivers Month, we pause to recognize the men and women who tirelessly work to improve the quality of life for Americans in need of care…”
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, there are about 10,000 people turning age 65 each day. For the first time in U.S. history, there are more than 50 million seniors – a trend that is expected to continue until the year 2029 when the youngest baby boomer will turn age 65. This aging population combined with the high cost of in-home care creates a demand for family caregivers.
The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP have done periodic surveys and the most recent from 2015 estimated that 34.2 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult for 12 months. Other statistics are equally staggering: More than 82% provide unpaid care for one other adult while 15% provide care for two adults. Most often we associate caregiving with the elderly, however, over 16% of Americans (39.8 million) provide care for an adult over age 18 that has a disability or illness.
The cost for informal caregiving is overwhelming at the tune of $500 billion dollars annually. If these family members who provide help were replaced with skilled nursing care, the cost would jump to $642 billion each year. It is hard to imagine that the value of unpaid care actually exceeds Medicaid spending.
It is not surprising that the majority of caregivers are female (75% of all caregivers are women), they are married with an average age of 46 and most all, work outside of the home. Caregivers spend, on average 13 days each month (24 hours per week) on tasks such as food preparation, laundry, shopping, transportation and administering medication. They spend another 6 days a month providing feeding, dressing, bathing, grooming and other personal care needs. Lastly, they spend another 13 days each month researching care services or online searching for information about illnesses, handling finances and coordinating healthcare.
Is this the new norm for Americans? What can families do?
If you have aging parents or family members, it is critical to have this discussion before the onset of illness. Family members must communicate their wishes. If it is determined that they want to be cared for at home, then the discussion has to go further. Who will provide that home care? How will home care be paid for? Universally, parents do not want or intend for their adult children to provide care—they don’t want to be a burden. Unfortunately, with a lack of planning, often adult children are left with no options but to become caregivers – whether their parents want this to happen or not.
Families with aging parents should be researching home care programs now, before the onset of an illness or a long-term disability. If “aging in place” is a high priority, then you have to determine if this is feasible. Older homes may not allow space for wheelchairs, laundry might be in the basement, and having stairs in a home will also present a challenge. You have to determine if their home is age friendly and if it is not, what has to be done or changed so that caregiving can be provided at home.
Caring for a family member may be a labor of love, but the impact on the caregiver takes its toll, physically, mentally and financially. If you know a caregiver, recognize them and all that they do during National Family Caregivers Month. Say thank-you, offer to give them a day off, bring them their favorite meal, go grocery shopping for them, offer to help the caregiver decorate their home for the holidays or a hand-written thank-you card goes a long way. Acknowledge our caregivers who give so selflessly at such a personal cost.
Roberta L. Nestor is a financial advisor practicing at 491 New Haven Avenue in Milford, CT offering retirement, long term care, investment and tax planning services. She offers securities and advisory services as a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network – a member FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products offered through Nestor Financial Network are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Commonwealth Financial Network or Nestor Financial Network does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation. Roberta can be reached at Nestor Financial Network, 203-876-8066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.