The nation's 48 million unpaid family caregivers are not only dedicating their time and efforts to the well-being of their loved ones — most of them are spending their own money on caregiving expenses. According to a new AARP study, three-quarters of the family caregivers surveyed reported spending an average of $7,242 annually on out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving,
"AARP's new report shows the stark reality family caregivers face today,” says Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer for AARP. “While financial challenges cross all segments of society, they hit hardest for Hispanic/Latino, African American and younger caregivers — as well as those caring for loved ones with dementia. Family caregivers are the backbone of America's long-term care system, and that backbone is breaking.”
The “Caregiving Out-of-Pocket Costs” study surveyed nearly 2,400 family caregivers of various ages and ethnicities from March 15 to April 25, 2021. Participating caregivers answered survey questions and tracked caregiving expenditures in 30 different categories for a period of one week.
High medical, housing expenses
Contributing to a loved one's housing expenses — paying for rent, mortgage, assisted living, home modifications and more — accounted for more than half of all costs incurred by caregivers surveyed. Medical expenses added up quickly, too. One-fifth of caregiver spending, more than $1,200 per year, went to direct payments for health care providers, hospitals, therapists, medical equipment and devices, in-home care, and adult day care.
The survey also found a correlation between increased work “strain” and higher out-of-pocket costs. Nearly 6 in 10 caregivers are currently working (59 percent) either full-time or part-time. Those who had a harder time juggling work and caregiving simultaneously and reported two or more work strains (like taking time off or working different hours) averaged $10,525 per year on caregiving expenses — almost double the amount that caregivers with no or one work-related issue.
Not surprisingly, the coronavirus made life more difficult for caregivers and care recipients. More than 4 in 10 caregivers report spending more time per week and more money on caregiving because of the pandemic.