Family caregiving studies describe both the cost and the satisfaction

Something tells us it must be National Family Caregivers Month, and that something is the email messages that keep arriving with someone announcing findings from some caregiving study. They each have their own little twist on the issue, naturally. 

“The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility and Financial Complexity,” just out from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, focuses a lot on money. The report suggests 40 million family and friend caregivers in the U.S. spend $190 billion per year on adult care recipients, with 92 percent of the caregivers handling some kind of financial role for them, even if just coordinating things.

The Merrill Lynch-Age Wave study, based on a nationwide survey of more than 2,100 caregivers, estimated that replacing those unpaid, informal caregivers with a paid, professional aide would cost some $500 billion annually. The caregivers said they are paying in other ways instead, such as the following:

• 30 percent of caregivers said they have had to cut back on expenses.

• 21 percent said they have had to dip into personal savings to help with caregiving costs.

• 24 percent reported they’ve had trouble paying their bills.

Navigating health insurance expenses was cited as the top challenge financially, and two-thirds of caregivers believe they would benefit from financial advice — but only 20 percent acknowledged seeking it out.

Meanwhile, AARP released its own study that might surprise some who focus on the difficulties of caregiving. Its new “AARP Family Caregiving Survey” stated that positive emotions from caregiving for those providing it far outweighed any negative feelings, and 54 percent even described taking unexpected joy in their role.

Still, about half of all those surveyed said they were stressed or worried. The positives were far higher among those who felt prepared for their role, as four out of 10 caregivers said they had felt unprepared.

AARP devotes a section of its website to comprehensive information designed to help caregivers. The association’s November AARP Bulletin also describes a number of what it calls “smart caregiving hacks” that can make everyday tasks easier, e.g. keeping shower soap in a nylon stocking to avoid slips, and using glow tape to make navigating the house safer at night.



Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255.


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