The Cost of Taking Care of Someone Else
Millions of Americans have taken on the task of caring for another adult. Now, we’re not talking about domestic engineers who physically and practically care for their spouses, or about breadwinners who financially care for their families. The CDC reports that roughly 34 million unpaid caregivers take care of someone 18 or older who’s disabled or ill, and more than 20 percent of households are impacted by these caregiving responsibilities.
Oftentimes, the care recipient is a parent. Life comes around full circle — and while the parent took care of the child for many years, now the child takes care of his or her parent. The CDC describes the typical caregiver as a 46-year-old women with some college experience who provides more than 20 hours of care each week to her mother. Of course, this typical description does not describe every type of caregiver, as adults of all ages, genders, and education levels may fall into the caregiver category.
Caring.com, an information and support destination for care providers, recently surveyed caregivers, asking the question: “Approximately how much money have you and other family members spent caring for this person over the last 12 months?” The survey asked that the respondents “please include out-of-pocket costs for medications, medical bills, in-home care, nursing home, and other caregiving expenses.”
Are you caring for someone else? If so, how much of an out-of pocket cost do you incur each year? Let’s see how you stack up against the survey respondents.
A key finding of the Caring.com study is nearly one-half (46 percent) of caregivers report annual out-of-pocket costs in excess of $5,000. A large portion of caregivers — 30 percent — spend at least $10,000 per year, and a handful of respondents — 7 percent — spend an astonishing $50,000 or more annually on these costs.
Pharmacy and medication costs are large expenses for caregivers, with around 50 percent of caregivers reporting costs of between $500 and $5,000 annually.
The study also examined other factors like time, work-life balance, living situations, future planning, and even difficult conversations people have in these types of circumstances.
Around one-third of the respondents (33 percent) spend at least 31 hours per week caring for another person, which can take a toll on the caregiver’s work and personal life. Forty-five percent of survey participants report having to leave work early, arrive at work late, or discontinue employment altogether, and 60 percent report some sort of negative effect on their careers. On the other hand, 9 percent of caregivers report that the responsibility has had a positive impact on their jobs.
While close to 60 percent of caregivers live with the person they care for, 20 percent of the survey respondents care for an individual living in an assisted living center, nursing home, or other living community. Living situations, among other things, are sometimes the subjects of sensitive conversations. The study found that the survey respondents talk about other issues with their loved ones as well. Fifty-six percent of caregivers have discussed limiting or discontinuing driving with a loved one, but only 30 percent have discussed how they are going to pay for care.