Of the 42.1 million American adults who are currently serving as caregivers for loved ones, 14 percent provide care for someone 80 or older, 9 percent care for someone 60 to 79, and 7 percent care for someone 18 to 59. By the time these caregivers, who are now aged 46 to 64, turn 80 and need caregivers themselves, the number of available family members to care for them will face a steep decline.
In a report released by AARP called “The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap,” the data suggests that by 2030, there will be only four potential caregivers available for each person 80 or older, down from a high of more than seven in 2010. By 2050, when Boomers will be 80-plus, the ratio will drop down to three in one.
“It’s a wake-up call for aging boomers,” said Lynn Feinberg, a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute and one of the report authors. “We’re really moving toward an uncertain future, as ... relying on our family and friends to provide long-term care isn’t going to be realistic anymore.”
Part of this potential caregiver drought can be attributed to the fact that Boomers had relatively fewer children than past generations and are slated to be living longer. With fewer family members available to carry the emotional and financial burden of caregiving, AARP is predicting that this will have major ramifications on our bank accounts, both as individuals and as a nation.
The report found that unpaid care was estimated to have been worth the equivalent of $450 billion in 2009, more than the cost of Medicaid and approaching the cost of Medicare. So what is the answer? Feinberg said that the country needs policies that would provide for better support for caregivers and more affordable options for home care. A federal commission on long-term care is expected to be recommended this fall.
So what can you do to save money on caregiving costs for in the meantime?
Look into Long-Term Care Insurance. About 60 percent of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetime. Long-term care insurance generally covers home care, assisted living, adult daycare, respite care, hospice care, nursing home and Alzheimer’s facilities. It will pay for a visiting or live-in caregiver, companion, housekeeper, therapist or private duty nurse up to seven days a week, 24 hours a day (up to the policy benefit maximum). If your parent currently has long-term care benefits, their policy might even pay you for your time spent caring for them.
Qualify for Veteran’s Benefits. If you are a veteran of the U.S. armed forces, a law passed in 2010 provides a monthly stipend to primary caregivers of veterans injured in military conflict after 9/11. Other benefits to caregivers include travel expenses, access to health care insurance, mental health services and respite care of 30 days a year. For more information, call 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Caregivers of veterans of other wars may be eligible for the VA’s Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. In addition, some state programs are specially designated for veterans. Check out the U.S. Government’s VA site for more information: http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/division_flsh.asp?dnum=1
Purchase a Medical Alert Device. Since you can’t always be with your parent 24/7, investing in a medical alert device is more cost-effective than moving them into an assisted living facility or paying for a home health aid. Thanks to improving technology, medical alert devices are now not only linked to your home phone line, but they can also be linked through cell phone towers, allowing you to travel outside the home and still have help when you need it. Check out some of the options we offer at Medical Guardian: https://www.medicalguardian.com/products
Consider Government Resources. Medicare can be difficult to navigate and it’s not always easy to know which programs might be available to you. ElderCare.gov is a great resource for finding services, programs or grant opportunities in your local neighborhood. BenefitsCheckUp.org is a nonprofit service that asks a series of questions to help identify benefits that could save you money and cover the costs of everyday expenses.