As the population ages, as more care shifts to the home, and as more diseases, like cancer, become chronic illnesses, informal caregiving needs have risen dramatically. This trend has an impact on almost all working age adults; we all know people or many of us have had to devote time to helping with the health needs of parents, other relatives, friends or loved ones. A survey of 2500 family caregivers for seniors from Caring.com puts some numbers on the effort involved in this informal caregiving. (Caregiver Survey) 42% of these respondents said they spent $5000 or more annually on caregiving expenses, with 18% spending up to $10,000 and 5% spent $50,000 or more. If the patients had Alzheimer’s or dementia, the expenses tended to be significantly higher. 62% spent money on food and clothing, 60% on transportation, 44% on medications, 26% on in-home care and 22% on legal services. Only 15% said they made no financial contribution to caregiving needs. People with the recipient of their caregiving living in an assisted living facility generally had higher caregiving expenses.
39% of respondents said they spend more than 30 hours a week on caregiving tasks. 84% spent time on shopping, 82% on going to doctors’ appointments, 82% on managing finances, 77% on transportation, and 66% on managing medications, while only 24% did things like feeding, and 26% on toileting. The majority of working respondents, 73%, said that caregiving had a negative impact on their work. 79% of all respondents said they missed at least on day of work due to caregiving and 13% saying they actually left their job because of caregiving responsibilities. 65% say they have been distracted at work by caregiving needs, 60% say they have had to change their work schedules. 59% of people live with the people for whom they provide care; 33% say they are spouses but in 22% of cases either the caregiver moved in with the patient or the patient moved in with the caregiver. Half say the person they care for has Alzheimer’s or some other dementia. While about half say they are happy to give back to the person they are caring for, 33% say a change is needed and 12% say they can’t continue with their responsibilities.
This is a gloomy picture; these caregiving demands can dramatically change a person’s life and impose great stress on the caregiver. The health system will need to address this sooner or later, and employers should be concerned about the impacts on productivity. Vendors who have creative solutions will likely find a ready market.