Americans sacrifice a lot when they become family caregivers — including $600 billion in unpaid work, according to a new AARP report.
Caregiving takes money, time, and physical and emotional energy. Family caregivers sometimes give up their own income, such as switching to part-time work, leaving the workforce temporarily or paying out-of-pocket expenses for their loved ones. The toll can be devastating for their own long-term well-being, as they may neglect their own retirement planning in order to care for their loved ones.
The $600 billion estimate in the AARP report does not include out-of-pocket costs or lost wages, the organization said, and is $130 billion more than it was in the last report published in 2019. The figure is based on 38 million caregivers who spent an average of 18 hours a week acting as caregivers as of 2021.
See: You may become a family caregiver soon, and not even know it
Family caregivers have multiple roles. They may be managing day-to-day tasks, such as assisting with grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and cleaning the house. Others are also handling the finances, transporting their relatives to doctors’ appointments and communicating with healthcare professionals and insurance companies about their loved ones’ wishes and medical needs.
Read: My mother has to go into a nursing home. How do I get her the care she needs?
The pandemic changed many aspects of family caregiving, including a postpandemic decline in direct care options, less visits in nursing homes during restrictions and the likelihood that relatives took on more of the responsibilities of their older loved ones’ care needs. About four in 10 family caregivers spent more time in these roles during the pandemic, according to the AARP report — family caregivers 40 years and younger were the ones more likely to increase the hours they provided care than those of the same age in years past.
Caregivers also faced financial struggles during the pandemic, such as not being able to pay for care or disruptions to their careers.
Also see: ‘Every caregiver in the world will feel burnout’ — how to take care of yourself while taking care of others
The outlook for family caregivers does not appear promising, what with the number of older family members versus their younger counterparts, AARP reported. By 2034, there will be more adults 65 and older than there will be children under 18, and the number of family members who can act as caregivers for their older loved ones will continue to drop. Meanwhile, many adults will become part of the “sandwich generation,” where they’re caring for older relatives as well as their children.