The cost incurred by children who are caregivers for their elderly parents is both physical and financial according to the recent Wall Street Journal article Toll of Caring for Elderly Increases. The health problems associated with adult children caring for their aging parents while working and tending to their own families has been well documented: stress, depression, hypertension, diabetes, pulmonary disease, overuse of tobacco and alcohol, and lack of preventative health screenings for themselves. But caregiving has another serious cost, and it directly affects bank accounts by threatening the financial security of those who tackle caregiving duties, not only through lost wages, but also lost pension and social security benefits. The critical factor in this caregiving scenario is that these family caregivers are nearly all over the age of 50 themselves, and therefore do not have the necessary time to make up for their lost earnings before facing their own retirement and health concerns. With an estimated 10 million people over the age of 50 facing this daunting physical and financial predicament (the number has tripled since 1994), the future seems uncertain and dire, especially for women who are much more likely to inherit elder care duties for ailing parents.
These physical and financial difficulties are compounded for caregivers of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia because the duration of the various stages can be experienced for up to twenty years. Something’s gotta give to help caregivers with these difficulties as people continue to live longer and the cost of caregiving skyrockets out of control. I don’t have the answers to this problem that will grow with alarming speed based on the Alzheimer’s epidemic predicted as the baby boomers age in the next twenty years, but I certainly recognize the problem and the impact it will soon have on us all.
Average losses in wages, pension and Social Security benefits over a person’s lifetime:
Percentage of men and women providing care for an aging parent: