Growing need for long-term health care due to longevity and advances in medical science place more family members into the role of being a caregiver. According to a recent report, more than one in five Americans must juggle caregiving with their other responsibilities.
The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP found that the number of family caregivers in the United States increased by 9.5 million from 2015 to 2020 and now encompasses more than 53 million Americans.
The report, "Caregiving in the U.S. 2020," revealed that these family caregivers are suffering their own health problems due to their role, compared to five years ago.
"As we face a global pandemic, we're relying on friends and family to care for the older adults and people living with disabilities in our lives," said C. Grace Whiting, JD, President, and CEO of NAC.
Magnitude of Long-Term Care Cannot Be Ignored
Whiting said caregivers are essential to the nation's public health. She says the nation can no longer ignore the magnitude of the problem as more and more unpaid family caregivers must provide these services.
"Family caregivers care for more people than in 2015 and they take on more care responsibilities as roughly one in four care for two or more people. Many individuals are caring for a longer time, with nearly a third (29%) of caregivers nationwide reporting they have been caregiving for five years or more—up from 24% in the last study," Whiting said.
The study found that the make-up of caregivers is getting younger. Twenty-three percent of caregivers were Millennials, and six percent were Gen Z. Plus, the job is getting harder.
Forty-five percent of these family caregivers were helping a loved one with two or more conditions, a jump of 37% from the 2015 study.
Health Insurance & MedicareNot a Help for Long-Term Care
The role of caregivers often gets placed on the family since health insurance and Medicarepays little or nothing toward custodial long-term care services. Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for these costs, but you must have a policy in place before a person's health changes as they are medically underwritten. For many, it is too late as they did not plan when they were younger or were unaware of available options.
Other points the study revealed:
- Caregivers face health challenges of their own: nearly a quarter (23%) of caregivers find it hard to take care of their own health, and 23% say caregiving has made their health worse.
- Personal finances are a concern for family caregivers: 28% have stopped saving, 23% have taken on more debt, and 22% have used up personal short-term savings.
- On average, caregivers spend 23.7 hours a week providing care, with one in three (32%) providing care for 21 hours or more and one in five (21%) providing care for 41+ hours—the equivalent of a full-time unpaid job.
"Family caregivers provide vital help and care for their loved ones, yet this survey shows that they keep getting stretched thinner and thinner. We must identify and implement more solutions to support family caregivers—both in the short term as we grapple with coronavirus and in the long term as our population ages and the number of family caregivers’ declines," said Susan Reinhard, RN, Ph.D., Senior Vice President at AARP.
Paid Long-Term Care Services Can Be Devastating
The financial impact of paid long-term care services continues to increase every year. The cost varies depending on location, according to the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator. Long-term health care is a cash flow problem for families but a family problem as well. When there is no Long-Term Care policy in place, the entire responsibility falls on families and finances.
In forty-five states, Partnership Long-Term Care Insurance offers dollar-for-dollar asset protection. Several types of plans are available, and experts suggest speaking with a Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help navigate options. However, experts recommend starting planning in your 40s or 50s when your health is usually much better since policies are medically underwritten and priced based, in part, on age and health when you obtain coverage.
Not only are family caregivers stressed physically and emotionally, but they also are not trained to provide the quality care that a loved one usually needs.
The goal is to safeguard your income and assets from the future costs and related burdens of long-term health care. You want to give your family the time to be family. You want to ensure you have your choice of quality care, including in-home care. According to almost every survey, you don't want to be a burden on those you love.
Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance is the solution. However, don't delay; obtaining coverage in your 40s or 50s is ideal for saving money and ensuring you have the most available choices.
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