Here on the AgingOptions blog, we’ve written before about the overwhelming burden being borne by the nation’s caregivers. Because this burden of caregiving affects so many aspects of our society, we feel this an important story to revisit from time to time. Chances are good that you and your family are impacted by this issue to some degree, and even if that’s not the case today, it probably will be tomorrow.
The Burden of Caregiving “Consumes” Those Engaged In It
The most recent article to shed light on the burden of caregiving is this one published in the New York Times just a few weeks ago. Written by reporter Eduardo Porter, the article begins with a profile of a 35-year-old Georgia woman who has moved in with her parents and put her life on hold in order to care for her 57-year-old mother diagnosed seven years ago with dementia. She describes herself as being “consumed” with the weight of her mother’s care – and she is far from alone. “The burden of care for aging relatives is reshaping the lives of millions of others,” the New York Times reports. “About 15 percent of women and 13 percent of men 25 to 54 years old spend time caring for an older relative, according to the Labor Department.” Among those in the 55 to 64 age group, the share rises to one American in five. Roughly 20 percent of caregivers also have children at home.
As boomers age – roughly 10,000 turn 70 every day – the demand for caregiving will increase dramatically, and so will the cost to society. “By knocking many women in their prime earning years from the work force, the growing strain from care is weighing down the American economy,” says the Times article. Back in the year 2000, the U.S. ranked 17th among the 36 major industrialized nations in the percentage of women in the work force. “By 2017, it had slid to 30th,” the article says. “Economists say the virtual absence of support for eldercare is a prime suspect in explaining why the share of women taking part in the labor force stalled in the late 1990s after rising relentlessly for 50 years.”
The Burden of Caregiving: Majority Are Also Working Regular Jobs, Many Full Time
While some women (and men as well, but at a lower rate) do quit work completely, most don’t have that option. “More than 60 percent of the people caring for an older person work, too — and 45 percent of the caregivers work full time,” according to the New York Times. The Center for American Progress studied the cost of caregiving a few years ago, and determined that the amount of annual wages lost when American workers take time off to care for family members is almost $29 billion. In another study, MetLife pegged the annual loss to American businesses when employees have to leave work to care for senior loved ones at $34 billion. But that’s just part of the cost. A blog post on the website of A Place for Mom back in 2015 said that there are “hidden costs” of caregiving beyond loss of income, including a decrease in employability once caregiving ends; an increase in the cost of health care; and a major loss in savings and retirement funds. Most working adults never recover economically from the burden of caregiving.
The Burden of Caregiving Can Trigger Burnout
The emotional, physical and financial burden of caregiving has given rise to the familiar phrase “caregiver burnout.” We found this list of seven burnout warning signs on a website called Verywell Health. Recognizing these red flags will help you recognize and reduce caregiver overload. If you’re a caregiver, do any of these apply to you?
- You feel increased irritation, frustration, or anger over small things.
- Your gentle, unhurried approach to providing care is disappearing or gone.
- You raise your voice at your loved one more often, later feeling guilty.
- You often skip important aspects of your loved one’s care because they’re just too difficult.
- Your own mental health is declining, triggering anxiety, depression, or insomnia.
- Your own physical health is declining due to muscle strain and emotional pain.
- Your own family is experiencing dysfunction, and your care for your loved one is harming your relationship with spouse and children.
Help is Available, and Planning is Essential
If you’re a caregiver, or if you know someone who is, you’re not alone. We strongly recommend that caregivers seek help and advice from the local groups such as the Alzheimer’s Association or the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The website Today’s Caregiver is another good place to begin finding helpful resources. Here at AgingOptions, we also believe that the impact of being a caregiver on your health, your family and your finances make it essential that you undertake some comprehensive retirement planning, and we want you to know that we’re here to help you on your retirement planning journey.
One of the best ways to discover our comprehensive approach to planning for your senior years is to attend one of our LifePlanning Seminars, offered at no cost and with no obligation whatsoever. You’ll learn valuable information about how to make sure every aspect of your retirement plan is addressed, including housing choices, medical needs, legal affairs, financial security and family communications. With a LifePlan in place, you’ll have the solid, strong retirement blueprint you need to build the retirement you’ve dreamed about. You’ll also be able to think beyond your role as a caregiver and lay plans for your own positive future.
Click on the Live Events tab on this website for dates, times and locations, and for online registration. You can also contact our office any business day and we’ll be glad to answer your questions. We’ll look forward to serving you and answering your retirement related questions at a LifePlanning Seminar – and meanwhile, remember to “Age on!”
(originally reported at www.nytimes.com)