NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Toll of Caring for Elderly Increases

June 15, 2011

A steep rise in people caring for elderly parents is taking a toll on the health and finances of many baby boomers, according to a new study, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • The percentage of adult children taking care of their parents has tripled since 1994, with nearly 10 million people who are 50 and older doing so in 2008, according to a new analysis of the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, a bank of economic and health data on people over age 50 that was collected by the University of Michigan.
  • The financial toll on care providers who are 50 or older averages $303,880 per person in lost wages, pensions and Social Security benefits over their lifetime, due to leaving the workforce early to care for a parent, according to the study.
  • For women, the cost is higher: $324,044, with $142,693 in lost wages, $131,351 in lost Social Security benefits, and $50,000 in lost pension benefits or matching contributions to defined-benefit plans.

Another study released last year found that depression, hypertension, diabetes and pulmonary disease were among caregivers' more-common health problems.  They also experienced higher rates of stress, were more likely to smoke or drink alcoholic beverages, and were less likely to get preventive health screenings, including mammograms.

The new study calls for employers to do a better job of accommodating caregivers so they don't quit, and steering them to stress-management and free caregiving resources.  It also points out that caregivers would benefit from paid family leave and says more states are beginning to show interest in doing so by tapping workers' compensation funds.

Source: Kelly Greene, "Toll of Caring for Elderly Increases," Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2011.  "Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents," MetLife Mature Market Institute, 2011.

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