In 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that more than 50 million people provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend. Perhaps most troubling is that 30% of family caregivers caring for seniors are themselves aged 65 or over; another 15% are between the ages of 45 to 54.
Caregiving fatigue is now a real health concern for today's caregivers, especially since six in ten family caregivers are employed. In fact, 73% of family caregivers who care for someone over the age of 18 either work or have worked while providing care; 66% have had to make some adjustments to their work life, from reporting late to work to giving up work entirely; and 1 in 5 family caregivers have had to take a leave of absence.
"Caregiving is the perfect storm for family members: combining guilt and resentment with stress and physical exhaustion, and adding financial and emotional costs. And as the senior population grows (the 75+ population will increase 70% by 2025), more and more family members will experience caregiver fatigue," said Mardy Chizek, an Eldercare Navigator and president of Westmont's Charism Eldercare Services.
The vast majority of adults (78%) in the U.S. who receive long-term care at home get all their care from unpaid family and friends. Another 14% receive some combination of family care and paid help; only 8% rely on formal care alone. Adding to the woes, the Alzheimer's Association LA and Riverside, estimate that caregivers live an average of 480 miles from the people for which they care.
Chizek adds that as the senior population grows, so does their need for extended care. Chances are that two out of three seniors will become physically or cognitively impaired in their lifetime. And the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that about 80 percent of seniors have at least one chronic health condition and 50 percent have at least two. Arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disorders are some of the leading causes of activity limitations among older people.
There's a reason that healthcare for seniors has become an issue on Capitol Hill, since the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that expenditures on long-term care totaled more than $154 billion in 2010, with 59 percent of all expenses covered by the public sector. Out of pocket expenses account for almost all of the balance, with private insurance covering just 1 percent of long-term care costs. It is estimated that costs will rise to more than $195 billion in 2020 and a staggering $270 billion in 2030.
Yet, this doesn't take into account other costs relating to caregiving. A MetLife study found that American businesses can lose as much as $34 billion each year due to employees' need to care for loved ones 50 year of age and older.
The same study also projected that caregivers caring for elderly loved ones cost employers eight percent more in health care costs, estimated to be worth $13.4 billion a year.
"Caregiving is one of the most stressful times in an individual's life. The statistics do not begin to capture the actual scope of the complex, exhausting experience that is unique to each situation. Reach out for assistance from an expert such as an eldercare navigator to help you anticipate needs rather than to respond to each crisis as it occurs," concludes Chizek.