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The price of caring for our elders

Posted at 1:17 PM on December 5, 2007 by Nanci Olesen (4 Comments)

A new study says people who care for elderly spouses or parents spend thousands of dollars on that care, often depleting their savings and threatening their own financial security.

The study is from The National Alliance for Caregiving, a research and policy organization, and Evercare, a division of The United Health Group. It says family members who care for their elderly parents or spouses spend an average of $5,531 a year to cover the costs of their loved one’s daily needs.

A caregiver might live in the same household as her elderly parent or spouse, spending money on groceries, household items, and necessary home improvements. Often the caregiver gives up leisure activities, such as movies and going out with friends, to be able to afford helping a relative in need.

The New York Times estimates that 34 million Americans are caring for an older family member or friend.

Caregivers often sacrifice their own health and well being as they care for their elders. Respondents to the caregiver study reported spending an average of 35.4 hours a week caring for their loved one. Caregivers described heightened stress and anxiety, difficulty sleeping, increased financial worries, depression, and new or worsening health problems as some of the challenges they face.

After a briefing on Capitol Hill this week about what caregivers spend, organizations like Evercare are hoping that legislation will be proposed to help people who help their aging relatives.

Do you care for an elderly relative or spouse? What kinds of sacrifices do you make to do this work?

Comments (4)

This weekend either the NYT or Strib had an opinion piece addressing this issue. The author mentioned that caregivers might be eligible to receive compensation (from medicare?) if such care kept the elder out of a facility that the program would otherwise pay for. Sorry to be so vague. But if true, perhaps this info would be helpful to people who are sacrificing their own time, sanity and money to care for an elderly family member.

Posted by bsimon | December 5, 2007 1:39 PM

There are services available for compensation. One, in particular, is PCA (Personal Care Attendent)services. However, it is difficult to get and the compensation is nothing to get excited about. I guess every little bit counts. However, children with behavioral issues obtain more compensation than a family taking care of an elderly parent. The system is a bit backwards. (NOTE: a spouse is unable to compensated with this program).

Posted by Shannon | December 5, 2007 8:35 PM

Three years ago, my newly wedded pregnant wife and I decided to take her father out of the nursing home (where he had been for a couple months) and have him live with us. It was what he wanted, and he had a good pension that allowed him to pay for many of our living expenses. He lived with us for a year and a half until he passed away.

I like to think we gave him quality care, and he was happier with us, then when he was in the nursing home. It gave me a chance to be a stay at home dad, and build our new home. The time commitment to care for him wasn't too bad. The hardest part was having to try to work in times to feed him while we were out.

Posted by gml4 | December 6, 2007 2:26 PM

I found this site: to be a helpful resource for first steps in caregiving.

It used to be that people often took relatives into their homes as they aged. Now it is becoming popular again for financial reasons, as well as to ease a parent or aging relative into their late years with a sense of family and home. But it is often very difficult to accomodate an aging relative and to adjust to the needs and rhythms of an aging relative.

Posted by Nanci Olesen | December 7, 2007 8:55 AM