A new Health Affairs study predicts the cost of lost wages for unpaid caregiving will double from its current rate of $67 billion to $132–$147 billion by 2050. The predicted rise in costs will be fueled by a growing number of Americans who need care, as well as an increased share of better-educated caregivers. Here are three other key findings that paint a picture of the caregiving landscape at the midcentury mark.
There Will be Fewer Caregivers to Meet a Growing Need
The study notes that older Americans with functional limitations overwhelmingly turn to unpaid family caregivers for assistance with tasks of daily living like eating, bathing, and walking. In 2011, some 11 million adults aged sixty-five or older received this kind of care outside of a nursing home setting. Over the next fifty years, researchers predict the number of disabled order Americans will increase by 2.5 times. The fastest growing segment will be adults over the age of 80, who have significantly greater care needs than their younger counterparts. By contrast, the number of potential caregivers will increase at a much slower rate.
Study authors note that “[t]hese demographic trends, coupled with older adults’ preference to age in place and receive care from family and friends, suggest that the United States can expect a substantial increase in the share of working-age adults who provide essential care to their frail parents and other family members.”
The Cost of Replacing Unpaid Care Would Be Very High
Older Americans aren’t the only ones benefiting from all this unpaid work. “Research shows that unpaid family caregiving provides important economic benefits to society by reducing public and private spending on long-term services and supports.” One study estimated, “the annual value of family caregiving in 2011–12 to be $522 billion, with the cost of replacing it with paid care estimated at $221–$642 billion.”
These data points provide more evidence of the tremendous costs the country faces as it cares for an aging population.
Unpaid Care Comes at a High Cost for the Caregiver
While older Americans and society in general benefits from unpaid caregiving, the caregiver certainly doesn’t. Informal caregiving “raises the odds that caregivers will stop working; reduce their work hours; or change jobs, often accepting lower pay.” The study cited other research showing that women aged 51-70 worked 3-10 hours less per work while providing care.
The study concludes by noting that due to demographic trends our society’s continued reliance on unpaid caregivers could lead to a negative fiscal impact through lost tax revenue and increased costs for social programs. As such, study authors recommend that “future discussions of the role of family caregiving should recognize that this is a finite and increasingly expensive resource.”
Filling the Care Gap
This new research underscores the important role home healthcare workers will play in the coming years. As older Americans continue relying on family members to provide care, a growing number of well-educated and high-earning potential caregivers will face a difficult choice. Do they forego their own earning potential and career advancement to care for older relatives or do they turn to outside help? In these instances, home care agencies can help fill the gap by providing trained caregivers who can help seniors with the tasks of daily living.
If your older relative is an Arizona resident, Generations Home Care can help them live a more independent life for less than you might expect. Contact us today to learn more.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasize a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.