Caregiving: What everyone should know

By Feby Francois


Here's why it matters:

  • Approximately one in five Americans provided unpaid care in the past year, according to a 2020 study.

  • One in four U.S. adults cares for a recipient who is 50 or older.

  • As the Baby Boomer population ages, these numbers will likely continue to increase.

Rosalynn Carter, a former first lady, once said, “There are four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

As a result of the insight, we must ask: Which one are you? Several caregivers are unaware they are caregivers, which may come as a surprise. They may believe they are simply providing care for a loved one. Are you one of them? In the past year, you may have helped someone with their personal needs, household chores, finances, medications, transportation, doctor appointments, other services, research, or even just to keep them company.

Informal caregivers aren't paid for their services. But you aren't alone. Nearly one in five Americans provides unpaid care to an adult with health or functional needs, according to a 2020 report on caregiving.1 Paid care providers are considered formal caregivers. These professionals can work at home or in facilities like assisted living and nursing homes. Long-term care is often provided by both informal and formal caregivers.


How does long-term care work?

In general, long-term care is a service designed to meet a person’s health or personal care needs when they are unable to do so on their own.

Moreover, the same report showed that many unpaid caregivers assist with basic needs such as shopping for groceries, meal preparation, laundry, housekeeping, finances, and medication management, all of which fall under the category of Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). Six out of ten informal caregivers help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as eating, dressing, bathing, and transferring, and 58 percent assist with medical tasks. One of the most common types of caregiver for an adult is their relative - usually their parent or parent-in-law.

Inevitably, long-term care needs vary from person to person and can change over time. The chances of needing long-term care are high for someone turning 65 today. About a third of them might never require long-term care, but 20% will need it for longer than five years.


Getting ready for long-term care and aging

It's important to discuss caregiving with your loved one, whether you're planning to give care or you're already doing it. Decide together who will provide care if they need assistance for a long time, and make arrangements for that care, such as how to manage finances, healthcare decisions, and living arrangements.

In addition, it is important to plan how additional care could be financed. Among the common options are long-term care insurance, life insurance/long-term care products, an accelerated death benefit under an insurance policy, a health savings account (HSA), a personal retirement account, or Medicaid.

According to the Census Bureau, the 2020 national average monthly cost of in-home care is $4,500, for assisted living, it is $4,300, and for nursing homes it is  around $7,700 for a semi-private room in a nursing home.


Caregiving preparation

Caretakers may not realize at the start that taking on the role can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. Sometimes, priorities shift gradually and unnoticeably from taking care of themselves to caring for others. When caregivers put their needs above the needs of others, they may even feel selfish. Ultimately, taking time to care for yourself will enable you to care for others.


Caring for others can be physically draining

There are some caregiving activities that are more physically demanding than others. You may need to provide extra assistance depending on the needs of your loved one.

You may need additional support if your loved one is confined to the bed, unable to feed or bathe himself or herself, or if you work full-time outside the home, care for young children or other family members, and struggle to wake up early to take care of the needs of your loved one.


Effects on the emotional state

Caring for a loved one can be rewarding in many ways, but caregiver stress is also common. It may be caused by a conflict between your needs and the needs of the person you are caring for. There may be a change in role - you may now be taking care of someone who used to take care of you, and it can be tough to see someone you love decline. Caregiving can be a stressful activity, which can lead to feelings such as anger, frustration, exhaustion, loneliness, or sadness.

Caregiver stress can be managed by accepting help, setting realistic goals, connecting with caregiving resources, joining a support group, maintaining social ties, and setting personal health goals. Caregivers and those they care for may benefit from taking a break from time to time. Seek out local respite care options, such as adult day care centers, short-term nursing homes, or in-home care.


Financial expenses and the caregiver

When a caregiver is caring for their loved one for an extended period, it can negatively affect their financial future. And nothing crystallizes how caregiving can affect finances better than seeing real numbers. An AARP study from 2021 found that 78% of caregivers incur routine out-of-pocket costs, and three-quarters of family caregivers report spending an average of $7,242 annually on caregiving.

More than half of those costs were attributed to housing expenses, such as rent, mortgage, assisted living, and home modifications. Almost $1,200 of those costs were related to medical expenses, such as care providers and medical equipment. Schedule an appointment with us today and we can help you look to make better decisions for the future.