Recognizing Family Caregivers

November has been named National Family Caregivers Month to honor parents, adult children, and spouses who selflessly care for loved ones afflicted with illnesses, disabilities, traumatic injuries, or the effects of aging. According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, the number of family caregivers grew by 9.5 million from 2015 to 2020. As a result, one in five Americans are now serving as a family caregiver.1

As medical advances prolong lives and turn once-deadly conditions into disabilities, chances of becoming a caregiver for an older family member dramatically increase. Elder caregiving is often a rewarding act of service as well as a demanding sacrifice. In contrast to caring for children, care requirements for older adults can go from zero to 100 percent overnight. Unfortunately, few programs support those caring for the elderly who often juggle multiple responsibilities for which they may feel ill-equipped.

In addition to the mental and physical challenges, the caregiver’s finances may be impacted dramatically – particularly if the role requires them to reduce work hours or stop working entirely. They may lose employer-provided health care coverage, and their lost wages could in turn reduce their retirement savings and Social Security benefits. Middle-aged women who leave jobs to care for an aging parent may find it difficult to re-enter the workforce. Recent research suggests the average female caregiver loses more than $324,044 in wages and Social Security benefits when caregiving during her prime working years.2

Depending on the type and degree of the condition producing the need for care, a variety of solutions may lessen the burden on family members. An older individual might be able to live independently with the help of a visiting nurse, home health aide, or homemaker. A caregiver may be able to continue working if their relative is able to participate in an adult day care. But at some point, assisted living or long-term care may become unavoidable. 

Financial issues related to caring for a loved one can be complicated and difficult to predict. A financial professional can suggest things you can do now in order to be financially prepared should a loved one require care.

1 https://www.caregiving.org/caregiving-in-the-us-2020/

2 https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-heartbreaking-stories-of-some-of-americas-435-million-unpaid-adult-caregivers-2018-07-20