May 23, 2011
The toll of family caregiving can be mind-boggling. That's why it's important to reach out for the resources that can serve as a respite and alleviate the stress.
Q. My 85-year-old mother lives just down the street. She does not want to leave home to go to a care community, but I am at my wit's end trying to get everything done in my life. Caregiving is getting expensive, not to mention that I am losing wages at work. Can you help?
The faces may be different but the stories are the same: Your dilemma is shared by thousands of family caregivers everywhere.
A report released by AARP – "Valuing the Invaluable, The Economic Value of Family Caregiving, 2008 Update," estimates that 34 million Americans provide more than 20 hours of care per week to another adult, making informal caregiving a cornerstone of U.S. health and long-term care.
The AARP report notes that informal caregivers of people 50-plus spent an average of $5,531 out-of-pocket in 2007 to care for their loved ones. That spending is often coupled with lost workdays, wages, health insurance and retirement savings.
More than one-third of informal caregivers are forced to quit their jobs or reduce their working hours, with women more likely to leave the labor force entirely. Caregivers also frequently struggle with health care bills and medical debt – and experience chronic stress. Less noticeable is the physical, financial and emotional toll caregiving can take.
The report says that the value of family caregiving in 2007 was $375 billion, 7 percent higher than the estimated value of $350 billion in 2006. The estimated value exceeds the $311 billion spent nationally in 2007 for Medicaid.
There are several resources that you can go to for help. First, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. They will have a good idea what is available in your community. The Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov is a great resource as well.
Also, call your local Home Instead Senior Care office. Home Instead CAREGivers often serve as a respite for family caregivers to help them juggle the many demands of caregiving. A few hours a week of caregiving support may be all you need to bring order back to your life.
The full report, "Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving 2008 Update," is available at: http://www.aarp.org/research/housing-mobility/caregiving/i13_caregiving.html.
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