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Lisa Ling Explores the ‘Cost of Caregiving’ in New ‘CBS Mornings’ Special

In a 3-part series, the CBS News contributor delves into the ‘catastrophic’ caregiving issues impacting America today

Video: A Conversation About Caregiving with Lisa Ling

There’s a crisis in America and Lisa Ling wants to sound the alarm.

The journalist and CBS News contributor, 50, is one of the millions of Americans who are sandwich generation caregivers, providing aid and support for aging parents while still in the thick of raising young children — in her case, two girls, 11 and 7. Ling’s “funny, outgoing” father died in November after many years of support and in-person and long-distance care. And then, without taking a breather, she and husband Paul Song, 58, an oncologist and CEO of NKGen Biotech, began caregiving for his mother, who lives nearby.

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The work and worry are nonstop. And, as Ling has discovered, the caregiving system in America is broken. The cost of care is sky-high, requiring adult children to pay out of pocket just to afford basic care for parents; long-term care facilities are dangerously understaffed; direct-care workers are undervalued and woefully underpaid; and with an aging society, this is expected to hit a critical juncture.

This week, from April 24-26, Ling explores the state of caregiving in America in a three-part special on CBS Mornings. Ling talks with family caregivers and aides struggling to provide emotional, physical and sometimes financial care for older adults.

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Tell me about your caregiving experience with your father.

Lisa Ling: Well, for a while my father had moved to Los Angeles and was living with me until his condition worsened. ... So, he was living in a facility, but he missed his friends. And while he was having some sort of cognitive issues, it wasn’t like full-blown dementia. He moved back to Sacramento where we found a place for him, and he lived there for a long time. He was paying for it with his pension supplemented by his life savings. But [in the last] three years of his life, he had to be moved into a memory care facility. … And then he kept falling. He not only had sundowners, but he had restless body syndrome, which literally prevented him from being able to rest laying down in a bed for more than 10 minutes. And that became his life for the last three years — it was truly torturous. This past November, he fell multiple times a week and ended up in the ER and [then] passed away.

Why was it important for you to do a series on caregiving?

Lisa Ling: So [caregiving for my father] has [been] a constant conversation that my young kids have been completely exposed to — which, I think that has really scared them a little bit because they know that their parents are older than so many of their friends’ parents. And trying to raise our kids in an environment where they don’t feel afraid has been really challenging. I talked about this with my sister, and I just felt so alone. And as things progressed [with my father], we just started to learn about more and more people who are in this [caregiving] predicament. ... And given how rapidly the boomer generation is progressing in age, I just thought I’ve seen so little in the media, on television, about this crisis.​

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How did caregiving impact your day-to-day life?

Lisa Ling: Because my father was ending up in the hospital so often, we expected our phone to ring in the middle of the night regularly. In fact, we had some PTSD after he passed away because I was still waking up in the middle of the night sort of waiting for that call to happen.

What did you learn about the issues of caregiving reporting for this special?

Lisa Ling: Well, certainly, it has opened my eyes to this catastrophic crisis. ... It is so unconscionable that only the very wealthy and the very poor can really get access to the kind of care that people are going to need. It has really made me think about how Americans spend their lives working. And ultimately, their future looks so bleak when it comes to the aging process.

Our country is just so ill equipped to deal with [caring for] the millions of Americans who have spent their entire lives working and contributing to our economy.

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What were some big takeaways from your interviews with fellow caregivers?

Lisa Ling: One of the biggest challenges that people are facing is that any hope of any generational wealth has been eliminated. Families are having to dip into their own savings in order to take care of their parents. And caregiving is so expensive. The place where my father was staying was close to $10,000 [per month]. He just needed almost every [kind of daily care].

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Many people are so afraid of the future, that instead of making any plans, they make no plans.

Lisa Ling: These are issues that we personally and politically need to take very seriously. Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day. And also, we want to highlight the importance of the caregiving workforce, direct-care workers and domestic care workers who are too often underpaid, undervalued, overworked. It’s so vital that we start training this workforce and recognizing the honor in this kind of work. These are people who will be taking care of our loved ones. And I think we need to start thinking about how to compensate them commensurately.​

Lisa Ling’s series Cost of Caregiving airs Wed., April 24, through Friday, April 26, on CBS Mornings weekdays from 7-9 a.m. ET on the CBS Television Network and streaming live on Paramount+. 

Find resources and tools to assist family caregivers on the AARP website.​

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