May is Older Americans Month. And this year’s theme, Aging Unbound, recognizes that we all benefit when older adults remain engaged, independent and included. That freedom and potential are made possible in large part by the support and contributions of unpaid family caregivers.
AARP’s recently updated “Valuing the Invaluable” report estimates that family caregivers provided 36 billion hours of unpaid care worth $600 billion in 2021. In addition, the average caregiver pays more than $7,200 annually in out-of-pocket costs for transportation and other needs.
This demonstrates the value of family caregivers, which is only going to increase. By 2034, adults 65 and older will outnumber children under 18, and the share of potential caregivers is projected to keep shrinking compared with those likely to need long-term care. Family caregivers will continue to face the dual demands of employment and caring for an older adult.
This doesn’t just affect families. It also has an impact on communities, employers and long-term care systems.
Consider these statistics:
- Roughly 30 percent of family caregivers of older Americans live in a household that includes children or grandchildren. They are increasingly likely to be working while performing their caregiving responsibilities.
- Sixty-one percent of family caregivers of adults work either full- or part-time. They face financial risks such as lost income and reduced career opportunities that may mean a future built on lower savings and reduced Social Security benefits.
- Direct-care workforce shortages can lead to more hours of care and higher-intensity care by family caregivers. Retaining workers in a field with high turnover and providing sufficient pay and training are challenging.
As our nation becomes more diverse, we must address the caregiving experiences and needs of African American, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian and LGBTQ+ family caregivers.