The High Cost of Caregiving

Almost 10 million Americans, most of them women, provide care for aging parents, often with financial consequences

The plight of working moms and dads is highly publicized in the media today. Most of us know it takes a ton of time, effort and money—almost a quarter-million dollars!—to raise a kid.

But while the image of a frazzled young parent gets a lot of attention, it’s much less common to hear about the burdens associated with caring for an elderly loved one.

Yet the number of American caregivers has tripped over the last two decades, and as of 2011, nearly 10 million people over age 50—largely women—are caring for their aging parents. The shift is largely a result of increasing lifespans: The average age of death today is about 79, compared to about 75 in 1990 and 68 in 1950.

It’s certainly not cheap to be a caregiver. According to a new survey by, nearly half of family caregivers—defined as people who take care of family members or friends without getting paid—spend more than $5,000 a year on caregiving expenses and about a third shell out upwards of $10,000.

And attending to an ailing or elderly family member’s needs is about more than just the financial responsibility. As many as 60% of survey respondents said their caregiving duties have had a negative effect on their job. This may be related to the fact that many caregivers are juggling multiple priorities at once—like having young or grown children living with them at the same time as an elderly parent.

The good news for adults in this situation is that many companies have already gotten more accommodating in terms of offering employees daily flexibility. For example, some employers might let you work from home once in a while or leave early to bring your mom to a doctor’s appointment.

So if you’re struggling to balance work and family responsibilities, consider explaining the situation to your boss to see if you can create a schedule that better suits your needs.


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Tags: retirement