Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today



Cost of Taking Care of Mom and Dad

Overwhelmed caregivers save the U.S. health care system billions in uncompensated care

A higher price to pay

But the burden of that $450 billion in uncompensated care goes beyond the economic. According to the report, between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers display symptoms of clinical depression. As many as a third of caregivers perceive their own health as fair to poor, and caregivers of people with dementia were more likely to have their own health problems, sleep problems and even dementia themselves than a person caring for someone without memory-related ailments.

woman hugging a man - uncompensated caregiving costs have climbed to $450 billion annually

Caregiving cost impacts family finances, health, careers and quality of life. — Photo by Hilda M. Perez/Newscom

This physical strain on the caregiver — and not the health of the older relative — is often the reason a parent winds up in a nursing home, says Howard Gleckman, resident fellow at the Urban Institute and author of Caring for Our Parents. But nursing homes are expensive. In the United States the median annual rate for a semi-private room is $70,445, but the cost can reach over $200,000 a year. If a family can't pay that themselves, then Medicaid is the only option.

"If all those families who are providing family care and do not have the financial resources to pay those fees turn to Medicaid, it would break the back of a system that's already deeply stressed," says Gleckman.

Is there a solution?

What caregivers need, experts say, are services such as support groups and information centers that will help them balance their own lives, as well as education regarding the physical, legal and emotional demands of caregiving.

"One of the big flaws in the system is that we have very little training for caregivers," says Gleckman. "Learning to transfer somebody [from bed to wheelchair], for example, is a skill. If you don't know the skill, you can hurt yourself. You can hurt the person you're trying to care for. We're expecting family members to be able to do it and we don't teach them how."

Next: Caregivers are in dire need of financial support. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Resource Center

Find tools, work sheets and tips on how to plan, prepare and succeed as a caregiver. Select a Caregiving Resource Center topic from the drop-down menu below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Reading eyeglasses eyemed 6 membership benefit health

Members save 25% on orders of $200 or more and get free basic lenses at

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx discount card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

grocery coupon center member benefit aarp

Members can print savings coupons at the Grocery Coupon Center powered by

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.