Retirees have been hearing a steady drumbeat of warnings about the threat of high long-term health care expenses. Many articles about long-term care discuss strategies from the perspective of retirees who eventually might need care near the end of their lives. These articles encourage retirees to take responsible steps to pay and arrange for care, so they won’t be a burden on their families or society. Turn the issue on its head, however, and consider the caregiver’s perspective: You could be doing everything right regarding your own finances — and then have your plans derailed by the needs of a family member, such as a parent or sibling, who didn’t plan ahead.
A recent study by the Transamerica Institute found that caregiving is risky business for those who step in to help an aging parent or relative. Here are some telling statistics from the study about the potential strains on caregivers:
- Fifty-two percent are working full or part time.
- Of these working caregivers, more than three-fourths report making some type of an adjustment to their employment — using sick time or vacation days, working fewer hours or quitting their jobs or retiring.
- More than one-fourth of working caregivers’ employers have reacted negatively to the workers’ caregiving responsibilities.
- Caregivers spend a median of $150 per month to cover expenses for the recipient. Almost half of all caregivers (43 percent) say they’re “just getting by” with their finances.
- More than half (56 percent) say their own health is taking a back seat to the health of their recipient.
Caregivers also report being unprepared for their roles. Almost half (49 percent) of caregivers perform medical- or nursing-related tasks, but only about half of these caregivers learned how to carry out these tasks from hospital or doctor staff. “Many caregivers are in need of formal training to perform their caregiving duties, especially those involved in medical- or nursing-related tasks,” said Hector De La Torre, executive director of Transamerica Center for Health Studies. “Without adequate training, they are putting both the care recipient and themselves in harm’s way.”