Caring for Parents Costs Americans $3 Trillion in Lost Wages, Pension & Social Security Benefits, as Percent of Family Caregivers Triples

A significant new study has found that the percent of adult children caring for their aging parents has tripled in the last 15 years, and that providing this care costs the caregivers $3 Trillion in lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits.

The study was conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute in partnership with the National Alliance for Caregiving and the Center for Long Term Care Research and Policy at New York Medical College.

Entitled, Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers; Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents, the study report is available in full on the website of the National Alliance for Caregiving, a non-profit organization focusing on issues of family caregiving.

Based on a sample of data on 1,112 men and women aged 50+ who had a parent living, the researchers examined the extent to which older adult children provide care to their parents. They also studied gender roles, the impact of caregiving on careers and the potential cost to the caregiver in lost wages and future retirement income.

The data for the study was drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which is conducted biannually by the University of Michigan with funding from the National Institute on Aging. The HRS surveys a nationally representative sample of adults over the age of 50 and provides extensive information on this population, including data on income, work and health status, and whether respondents provide basic, personal care and/or financial assistance to their parents.

Based on an analysis of this data, the new study made the following key findings:

  • “The percentage of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years. Currently, a quarter of adult children, mainly Baby Boomers, provide these types of care to a parent.
  • The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion.
  • For women, the total individual amount of lost wages due to leaving the labor force early because of caregiving responsibilities equals $142,693. The estimated impact of caregiving on lost Social Security benefits is $131,351. A very conservative estimated impact on pensions is approximately $50,000. Thus, in total, the cost impact of caregiving on the individual female caregiver in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits equals $324,044.
  • For men, the total individual amount of lost wages due to leaving the labor force early because of caregiving responsibilities equals $89,107. The estimated impact of caregiving on lost Social Security benefits is $144,609. Adding in a conservative estimate of the impact on pensions at $50,000, the total impact equals $283,716 for men, or $303,880 for the average male or female caregiver 50+ who cares for a parent.
  • Working and non-working adult children are almost equally as likely to provide care to parents in need.
  • Overall, caregiving sons and daughters provide comparable care in many respects, but daughters are more likely to provide basic care and sons are more likely to provide financial assistance.
  • Adult children 50+ who work and provide care to a parent are more likely to have fair or poor health than those who do not provide care to their parents.”

Explaining the importance and far-reaching ramifications of their study, the study authors commented,

“Assessing the long-term financial impact of caregiving for aging parents on caregivers themselves, especially those who must curtail their working careers to do so, is especially important, since it can jeopardize their future financial security. There is also evidence that caregivers experience considerable health issues as a result of their focus on caring for others. The need for flexibility in the workplace and in policies that would benefit working caregivers are [sic] likely to increase in importance as more working caregivers approach their own retirement while still caring for an aging parent.”

“These family caregivers, the celebrated members of the sandwich generation, are juggling their responsibilities to their own families and to their parents,” Gail Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, told Barrons. “There is also evidence that caregivers experience considerable health issues as a result of their focus on caring for others,” she continued. “The need for flexibility in the workplace and in policies that would benefit working caregivers is likely to increase in importance as more working caregivers approach their own retirement, while still caring for their loved ones.”

“As the percentage of employees who are caregivers continues to grow, there will be greater demand on employers for help and support,” added Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Discussing the implications of their study for family caregivers, the study authors wrote: “The findings of this new study would imply that both male and female family caregivers need to be more aware of the long-term financial implications of leaving work or dropping back to part-time in order to care for older relatives.” “Since the impact is greater for women (approximately $40,000 more), women in particular should think through the impact of quitting their jobs, dropping back to part-time, or taking a lower-paying job because of the flexibility for caregiving it may offer,” the authors added.

In addition, the authors commented, “Family caregivers should also think about their own health and be careful to maintain their health even while focused on the needs of their loved ones. It is easy to forget regular check-ups, mammograms, Pap tests, prostate exams, flu shots, and other preventative services when you are taking care of someone else.”

As to the study’s implications for employers, the authors suggested that employers need to:

  • “provide workers with the best possible retirement planning information,”
  • “provide workplace accommodations — such as flex-time or family medical leave (FMLA) — so that caregivers can continue to stay in the workforce while caring for a relative,” and
  • “ensure that all workers have the opportunity to know about and access stress management programs, as well as other preventative health services.”

As to the implications for policy makers, the study authors suggest that more states consider implementing paid family and medical leave, and express hope that public awareness will be expanded as to the voluntary long-term care insurance program (known as Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS)) made available under the Affordable Care Act.

The authors comment that, “Future long-term care policy will benefit from taking into account the role of family caregivers, especially the characteristics of the very large cohort of Baby Boomers who are likely to enter their old age still caring for their parents.”

“If these caregivers understand the financial implications of caregiving as described in this study,” the authors conclude, “they may be better able to plan for their own retirement as well as fulfilling [sic] their caregiving role.”

More Information

To read the entire study, see Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers; Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents.

See also, Toll of Caring for Elderly Increases, by the Wall Street Journal; and

And see, Caregiving Costs Americans $3 Trillion in Lost Wages, Pension and Social Security Benefits, by Barrons.

For more news and information on the statistics, extent, and toll of family caregiving, see HelpingYouCare™’s resource page with articles on:

The Expanding Role of Family Caregivers

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Copyright © 2011 Care-Help LLC

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2 comments to Caring for Parents Costs Americans $3 Trillion in Lost Wages, Pension & Social Security Benefits, as Percent of Family Caregivers Triples

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