Who Will Care for You?

Family Caregivers in DeclineContributors: Susan Lighter, Jane Indrelka, Moira Achinaurn, Gloria Casper

What will happen if you need long-term care of some kind? You might think your kids will take care of you — and you wouldn’t be alone. According to a study from Fidelity Investments, 72% of parents assume that one of their children will take on long-term caregiver responsibilities, if ever needed.1

That might seem to be a reasonable assumption. After all, there are a lot of Americans caring for an adult over the age of 50 — more than 34 million, in fact.2 But the number of caregivers is actually shrinking — and that could impact who cares for you in the future.

The Declining Number of Caregivers

Since we’re living longer and often requiring more complex care as we age, the demand for caregivers is increasing. However, due to smaller family sizes, lower marriage rates and greater geographic distance between family members, the number of available caregivers is going down.

In 2015, there were seven potential family caregivers for every person over the age of 80. That ratio is expected to shrink to four-to-one by 2030. And by 2050, it’s projected there will be fewer than three potential caregivers for every older American.3

Caregiver Cost

If you’re able to beat those odds and have a family member care for you, it’s important to understand what that really looks like for the whole family. That way you can decide if it’s truly what you want.

Family caregivers tend to be unpaid, but the value of the services they provide is high. In 2013, informal caregivers provided $470 billion worth of services. This includes assistance with the daily tasks of living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming and medication management; housekeeping and home maintenance; managing finances; providing transportation; grocery shopping and cooking. They also provide companionship and serve as care coordinators between different doctors.

Having a family member care for you as you age may seem like a cost-effective choice. But it isn’t always the case. Even if your mortgage is paid off, maintaining your home still costs you money. Home modifications might need to be made so your home is safe and accessible. Medical costs continue to rise — and they can be unpredictable, so it’s hard to know if you’ll have enough for an unforeseen health problem.

Family caregiving also has a cost to the caregivers. Many of them work full-time and have children at home to take care of as well. The added time and expense of caring for a parent increases their burden more than you might think.

  • Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care, with nearly 1 in 4 caregivers spending 41 hours or more per week providing care.4
  • 78% of family caregivers incur out-of-pocket expenses as a result of caregiving. Their average annual out-of-pocket expenses are $6954. For some it adds up to nearly 20% of their income.5
  • 60% of caregivers say they make workplace accommodations such as cutting back on their working hours or taking a leave of absence. The average lifetime loss of wages and benefits for a woman dropping out of the workforce or reducing hours to provide care is more than $300,000.6

Long-term care for a loved one impacts the caregiver’s health and well-being, too. Caregivers have a higher risk of depression, chronic illness and a decline in their overall quality of life.

Susan Lighter, a resident of Friendship Village of Bloomington, in Minnesota, recalls helping to care for her aging parents. “It was emotional and stressful,” she says. “However, my sisters took the brunt of it, as they lived closer to our parents.” They divided the duties. “Nancy took care of their finances, I took care of their insurance and Molly was what we called quality assurance,” she says. Every five weeks, Susan would drive eight hours from Columbus, Ohio, to Allentown, Pennsylvania to give her sisters a week of respite from the day-to-day care.

How a Life Care Community Can Help

Choosing a community that offers Life Care gives you the assurance of having a care plan in place before you need one. And if you do need care, you know exactly where you’ll receive it and how much it will cost. You don’t have to worry about finding quality care, and you don’t have to depend on your children to carry the caregiving responsibilities. Where and how you live are your choice, rather than someone else making that choice for you.

Jane Indrelka’s parents chose to live at Beacon Hill, outside of Chicago. “It meant a great deal to our whole family to be able to have our parents here under one roof when they needed medical and rehabilitation care,” she says. “It made it so much easier for my mother to visit my father. She was able to visit whenever she wished and didn’t have to rely on someone to drive her to where he was living.”

She says that if they hadn’t chosen a Life Care community, things would have been much different. “My parents and the rest of the family would have experienced a great deal more stress about the care they were receiving, and there would have been a much larger financial burden.”

It’s a big reason why Jane chose to work at Beacon Hill herself in 2011. “It’s a relief and has reduced the amount of worry and anxiety over not only the financial aspect of long-term care, but the overwhelming logistical stress that is caused when each parent is in a different building away from one another. As a professional in the health care industry, I would recommend Life Care to anyone.”

A Gift for the Whole Family

Ask any resident of a Life Care community about the security of knowing they have long-term care and you’ll hear a similar story.

Moira Achinaurn is a resident of Abbey Delray in Delray Beach, Florida. She says, “My children thank me for my decision. I feel it is a great gift to your children.”

“My family and I have peace of mind,” says Gloria Casper, a Beacon Hill resident. “We know the staff here is attuned to my needs and will assist me if I need help in any area. I’m at peace with myself. My family is happy I’m here. They know I’ll be taken care of when I’m no longer able to take care of myself.”

Susan Lighter has this final word of advice: “Go into a Life Care community when you’re young enough to enjoy the amenities and the busy social schedule. Don’t wait too long, as a health problem can arise and you may not be able to qualify to live at your choice of community. It takes a huge burden of decision off your family. Give a gift to yourself, and give a gift to your children.”

1. Fidelity Investments® Family & Finance Study 2016
2. Caregiving in the U.S. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2015
3. The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap: A Look at Future Declines in the Availability of Family Caregivers (Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, August 2013
4. Caregiving in the U.S. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2015
5. Family Caregiving and Out-of-Pocket Costs. AARP, 2016
6. Understanding the Impact of Family Caregiving and Work, 2012 (AARP Policy Institute)