Family caregivers are unsung heroes. The value of family caregiving, not only in terms of physical and emotional support, but also in dollars, is astonishing. At least 44 million Americans provide care for an elderly family member, essentially making up the backbone of long-term care. Are they appreciated? Most would answer that question with an unequivocal no. Here are just a few overlooked contributions of family caregivers.
1. The Cost of Family Caregiving
According to the AARP, family caregivers provide an average of 1,080 hours of care per year at an average value of $9.63 per hour. Do caregivers see these wages? Never. In fact, they are losing money.
69 percent of caregivers report experiencing stress as they struggle to cover caregiving expenses. On average they contribute $6,000 of their personal funds each year towards the costs of eldercare. If they are a long-distance caregiver, that figure increases to $9,000 annually.
Most caregivers are forced to cut back hours at work, refuse promotions that would mean raises, and dip into retirement funds in order to cover costs of caregiving. They are also leaving the workforce earlier, losing an average of $115,900 in lost wages, $137,980 in Social Security benefits, and $50,000 in pension benefits.
It’s interesting to note that many caregivers go completely unrecognized. Sometimes labeled “invisible caregivers,” as many as 1.4 million caregiving children are omitted from most caregiver research.
2. Further Financial Implications
The contributions from family caregivers are not only the foundation of our country’s long-term care system, but a vital component of the United States economy. If they earned wages, family caregivers would collectively cost the U.S. economy between $375 and 450 billion each year.
According to the AARP, what family caregivers don’t get paid is more than four times what Medicaid spent nationally on both health and long-term care services in 2009, and is more than the total sales of all combined Wal-Mart stores of the same year.
Significantly, family caregivers are devoting at least 20 hours on average to their caregiving duties, often while still working a full-time job and caring for their own families.
3. How the Government Benefits
Helen Waite, executive director of Ardent Manor Inc., an adult-day care center, said government agencies and the health care agency would be in dire straits if it weren’t for family caregivers. “Their sacrifice is immense,” she says, adding, “They have basically given up their social lives and personal lives.” Others agree that if the government had to pay for the services provided by family caregivers, our nation’s entire long-term care system would collapse.
Obviously, family caregivers fill quite a void. If it was left up to government agencies to fill that void, our nation’s seniors would certainly suffer. Their services also save the government from having to dole more money to nursing homes and other care facilities.
Rather than receiving support for their incredible sacrifices, budget cuts from state governments are creating an even heavier burden upon the shoulders of family caregivers.
4. Caregivers Keep Seniors at Home
Everyone agrees that seniors fare better when they are allowed to age in place at home, rather than be placed in a care facility. Thanks to our family caregivers, more seniors are able to do so. Susan Reinhard of the AARP says family caregivers play a critical role in improving the quality of life for aging relatives and help reduce the use of nursing homes and hospitals. At the same time, they are being asked to deal with more complex medical issues because of shorter hospital stays.
It’s easy to see how caregivers can get overwhelmed with their numerous responsibilities. Technology such as ClearCare’s homecare software has been instrumental in helping many family caregivers get the assistance they need. If you question how you’re going to cope with family caregiving, let ClearCare be the answer.