It’s not easy being a caregiver for a sick or elderly parent or relative. Nor is it cheap.
Family caregivers provide an estimated $470 billion worth of free care to loved ones, according to the Wall Street Journal, and spend an average 26% of their personal income on caregiving expenses.
A third of caregivers use their own personal savings to pay the bills. Twelve percent take out loans or borrow from others.
It’s such a financially perilous situation that AARP’s own caregiving expert, Amy Goyer, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 as a result of attending to the needs of her ailing parents.
She simply ran out of cash after more than a decade looking after her mother, who had a stroke, and her father, who had Alzheimer’s.
Goyer described filing for bankruptcy as humiliating and embarrassing. And she said her financial woes highlight how even the most most adept caregiver can be overwhelmed by the expenses.
An estimated 53 million Americans face similar circumstances.
The average U.S. caregiver is 49 years old, which means he or she may not have much of a financial cushion by the time caregiving costs start to mount.
The median annual cost of in-home care rose to $54,912 in 2020, up 18.5% from 2016, according to Genworth, a long-term-care insurance company.
The recently introduced Credit for Caring Act would provide a tax credit of up to $5,000 to eligible working caregivers. But that hardly scratches the financial surface.
Medicare won’t cover long-term care in a nursing home. Private insurance may cover a portion of such costs, but that depends on individual plans.
Clearly this is an unsustainable situation as the percentage of Americans aged 65 and older continues to rise.
Either we will have to overhaul our healthcare system to address the shortfall in elder care or we will have to enact safeguards for caregivers, such as more extensive tax breaks.
I propose making all itemized caregiving expenditures tax deductible.
If caregiving can drive even an expert like Goyer into bankruptcy, how can the rest of us manage as our own parents and loved ones increasingly need help?
It’s a dilemma more and more Americans will face in years ahead.