America is in a “golden age” of caregiving according to a University of Washington Professor. Emilio Zagheni, an assistant professor of sociology, says in newly published research published in “Population and Development Review" that one third of Americans are informal caregivers who put in 1.2 billion hours of work per week.

Not only is this extra work placing emotional and physical burdens on the caregivers, it is also placing a financial strain since nobody is being paid for this work. A recent AARP study reports 60% of these family caregivers are working at their primary job full-time. The study also stated a majority of these caregivers said they felt overwhelmed with the caregiving and 39% felt financially stained as well. Many family caregivers must turn down overtime or job promotions due to the caregiving and their normal family responsibilities.

The time people spend caring for older adults is like having 30 million people snatched right out of the workforce. The effect on the economy is intense. Zagheni estimates that in 2012, unpaid care accounted for about 5 percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product, approximately $691 billion.

There are two groups of informal caregivers. One group are the older spouses, who many times suffer their own health issues while attempting to be caregivers. The second group are members of the so-called ‘sandwich generation’, the adult children who have their own children and careers that become impacted by the needs of their parent's Long Term Health Care.

More people than ever before require help with activities-of-daily living or need supervision due to memory loss. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says if one reaches the age of 65 they will have a 70% chance of needing some type of extended Long Term Health Care before they pass.

While more and more people purchase Long Term Care Insurance as part of their retirement planning, many people don’t think about it until their health changes. At that point their insurance options are limited at best. The problem continues to grow as the population gets older and advances in medical science allow us to all live longer and longer.

“Another 1.3 million caregivers could be needed by 2050,” estimates Zagheni.

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Changes in public policy, employer flexibility and more people taking advantage of Long Term Care Insurance will help families deal with the problem of aging.

U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. made aging an issue at the recent White House Conference on Aging.

“All of us our aging no matter what age we are at, to be clear,” said Murthy.

The Surgeon General said talking to parents about these concerns is critical. He has done so himself.

“The conversations we have had is how they can stay healthy and independent as they get older recognizing they want to be part of their children’s lives but they don’t want to be dependent on their kids for everything,” he said.