The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility and Financial Complexity
Lifespans vs. Healthspans
Americans today are living longer lives than ever before, yet our healthspan, the time of life during which we remain healthy and independent, hasn’t kept pace. While roughly one-third of Americans anticipate that they may need care in the future, fully 70% of people age 65 or older will require long-term care at some point in their lives. Caregiving is almost inevitable: We’re likely to spend some time in our lives as a caregiver, care recipient or both.
The Coming Caregiving Crunch
In fewer than 10 years, the first Baby Boomer will turn 80. It’s in this decade of life when the likelihood of needing care is even higher, pressing us into a “caregiving crunch,” where the number of potential care recipients is growing much, much faster than the number of potential caregivers who can look after their family and friends.
Family caregiving is truly America’s other Social Security. The plummet in the number of available caregivers is cause for concern, given the magnitude of their undervalued contributions:
- Family members provide more than 95% of the non-professional care for older adults who do not live in nursing homes.
- While professional care providers log 465 million hours per month in community-based eldercare, caregivers looking after family and friends provide 1.3 billion hours of care per year—nearly 3 times as many.
- The estimated economic value of family and friend caregiving is roughly $500 billion per year—4 times greater than Medicaid’s expenditures on professional long-term care.
Understanding the Challenges of Navigating the Caregiving Journey:
Amidst this climate of change, Age Wave and Merrill Lynch are launching a strategic collaboration to better understand and address the most important stages of life to better guide Americans navigating challenging journeys. The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility & Financial Complexity, conducted in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is the inaugural study focusing on lifestages. The study surveys more than 2,000 caregivers who are currently caring for a family or friend or have held that role in the last three years.
A Common, Complex, Challenging — and Understudied — Lifestage:
Forty million Americans are caregivers today and 20 million enter this lifestage each year. This study is the first to provide an in-depth examination of several facets of caregiving that have previously been understudied:
Physical, hands-on caregiving is an increasingly common topic covered in the media — yet 96% of Americans say that caregiving is much more than hands-on care.
- 92% of caregivers are financial caregivers, which may include financially contributing to the costs of care and/or coordinating or managing aspects of the care recipient’s finances, such as conducting transactions, managing investments, and more.
- A care recipient’s financial needs are likely to escalate during the course of care, with 53% of care recipients requiring complete assistance managing their finances after two years.
- Few caregivers have discussed their financial roles and responsibilities with their care recipients. Many also don’t track their contributions: 52% of caregivers have no idea what they have spent in caregiving-related expenses to date.
- Caregivers are compensated by knowing they are doing something good for someone they love. Ninety-one percent say they are grateful to provide care to their recipient and 77% would gladly take on the role again.
- Caregivers share many similarities along their journey through this lifestage, including maintaining the dignity of their loves ones; feeling stress in coming up an often steep learning curve; balancing competing demands, time pressures and emotions; responding to escalating needs; and more. There are several key differences in the journey for those caregiving for a parent vs. those caregiving for a spouse.
- The experience of being a caregiver doesn’t end if the care recipient passes away. Sixty percent of the time, caregivers expect their role will end with the death of their loved one – often not accounting for months, or even years, settling estates, paying bills, and collecting insurance on behalf of the deceased.
- Caregiving is gendered, with women accounting for the bulk of care needed and care provided. Caregivers are three times more likely to be looking after a mother (or mother-in-law) than a father (or father-in-law).