Toll On Caregivers Huge, Long-Term Care Insurance Association Calls For Increased Education

More than 40 million Americans currently care for an elderly or disabled loved one and the value of their work amounts to an estimated $450 billion a year. 

According to a new report by AARP, family members providing caregiver services for free is good for society.  But the researchers report that they need a lot more help.

“That could be the understatement of the year,” declares Jesse Slome, executive director of the Los Angeles-based American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  “Caregivers are the most under appreciated people in the country.  Well beyond the financial sacrifice, the emotional toll can not be calculated.” 

Lynn Feinberg, who co-authored the AARP study, says modern family caregiving is incredibly stressful.

“The burden on families is huge,” Feinberg says. “While families are stepping up to the plate and make this contribution to society, the cost to their own health and financial security is huge.” 

The AARP study found that caregivers who reduce work hours lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income over a lifetime.   The researchers found that caregivers are also more prone to depression, physical ailments and social isolation. 

In 2009, about 42.1 million family caregivers in the U.S. provided care to an adult with limitations in daily activities at any given point in time, and about 61.6 million provided care at some time during the year.  

“Caregiver burn out is common and it will only grow as the huge wave of baby boomers ages,” Slome adds.  “Boomers have fewer adult children available to provide free care and high divorce rates make it more likely that aging boomers will be living alone when care is needed.”

The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance called for increased consumer education.  “This is a new issue facing Americans and widespread education regarding planning options is necessary,” Slome states.  “Without planning, millions will turn to already strapped government programs like Medicare and Medicaid and millions will face no other option but to place someone in a nursing home, which is what nobody wants.” 

Last week, the Obama administration joined labor groups calling for the creation of 2 million more jobs in home health care, plus a new visa for immigrants willing to enter the field.  “That’s a good start but home care services can be very expensive and government programs will be increasingly limited in terms of available funds,” Slome explains.  “It’s important for people to either save for this contingency or have some limited long-term care insurance protection to cover costs should the need arise.”

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