Preparing for the Challenges of Caregiving

Started in 1994 by the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), National Family Caregivers Month is a time to honor caregivers and the invaluable role they play in our nation. Each November, CAN campaigns to raise awareness about the serious issues caregivers face and the support services that may be available to them.

According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, the number of family caregivers in the United States increased by 9.5 million from 2015 to 2020. Family caregivers now encompass over 1 in 5 Americans, who are providing about 24 hours of care each week for an average of 5 years!

Providing care to a loved one can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging and costly. Many caregivers find they have no choice but to sacrifice jobs, put their education or retirement on hold, and sometimes relocate to fulfill caregiving duties. 

The NAC study revealed that family caregivers are in worse physical health compared to 5 years ago. Approximately 1 in 4 caregivers reported finding it difficult to take care of their own health, and a similar proportion reported that the demands of caregiving have made their own health worse. Caregivers are more likely to put their own health on the back burner, which can lead to a higher risk of disease and delayed diagnosis of serious illnesses. Mental health is a huge concern, with roughly 40% to 70% of family caregivers experiencing symptoms of depression. 

Financial strain because of caregiving is another huge problem. According to the study, nearly half of all caregivers have experienced at least one financial impact because of their caregiving. Most commonly, caregivers will stop saving and/or wind up taking on more debt - both of which could have repercussions on their long-term financial security. This happens when the person who needs care does not have the means of providing for their needs. 

Caregiving can also have a negative impact on a person’s job outside of the home. Most working caregivers report going in late, leaving early, or taking time off to accommodate care. Ten percent of working caregivers have had to give up work or retire early. These effects wind up causing a financial strain on workers and businesses the like. Despite some state and local progress (national TBD), as of 2020, most caregivers (61 percent) still reported having no paid family leave at their workplace.

These issues underscore the importance of planning. Not all life events are predictable, but if we can plan - for ourselves and for our dependents - the better. Think about what you want for your long-term care, should the need become necessary. Also, consider how you’d manage if you became the primary caregiver for a parent or another loved one. Discussing these possibilities with your trusted advisors - such as your estate planning attorney and financial advisor - is the best way to prepare for the multi-faceted challenges of caregiving.

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