The Financial Fallout of Caring for Aging Parents

Elder Care

It’s one of the harsh realities of aging: at some point, our parents will reach the age when they need help with basic tasks, from meal preparation to bathing.

Millions of Americans people take on care of elderly parents themselves rather than hiring outside help or sending aging parents to a nursing home. According to a study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 13% of the U.S. population provided some type of unpaid family caregiving in the past three months. In raw numbers, that means 39.8 million people over the age of 15 have provided unpaid elder care in the past three months. This number is only set to grow as the baby boomer generation grows older.

Many handle parent care themselves for personal or financial reasons, but there’s no denying the substantial time commitment. Of the 13% of Americans caring for a family member, one fifth provide elder care on a daily basis and one quarter provide care several times per week. While caring for your parents may be more affordable than a private nursing home, there are still financial repercussions to consider. As your parents approach the age when they need help, it’s important to keep these less-obvious caregiving costs in mind.

Loss in wages

According to MetLife’s 2011 Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers, the total estimated aggregate in lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits for caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion. That works out to a lifetime average of $324,044 lost in wages, Social Security benefits and pensions for a female caregiver and $303,880 for a male caregiver.

Loss in influence at work

The Family and Medical Leave Act requires certain employers to give personal leave to those who need to care for family members (including parents), but that leave is unpaid and does not apply to all workplaces. In addition to lost income, time off also results in missed meetings and experience, and with that the very real possibility of being passed over for promotions.

Loss in focus at work

Even when you are physically present at work, caring for an aging parent leads to stress that can be distracting in the workplace. Mid-day doctor appointments and other chores can interfere with work as well.

How are employers helping?

The Society for Human Resource Management recommends that employers provide a number of benefits to help employees who are caring for aging parents. These recommended best practices include:

  • Flex-time policy
  • Discounted backup homecare for emergencies
  • Help with insurance paperwork
  • Paid time off
  • Elder care resources

In an ideal world, those taking care of aging parents would have access to all of the above. However, according to a related study from SHRM, the harsh reality is that very few employers are willing or able to provide those resources. The study shows that just 1% of employers subsidize the cost of elder care and just 2% offer access to eldercare back services. Only 9% of employers offer elder care referrals, and 11% offer care leave.

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