Monday, November 20, 2017
The Wall Street Journal published an article by Maddy Dychtwald, The Surprising Benefits and Costs of Family Caregiving. A significant number of folks are already serving as caregivers (40 million per the article) and "[a]s the massive baby-boomer generation hits their 70s, the demand for family caregiving will skyrocket—and it’s poised to become America’s biggest off-the-books industry." The author explains about a survey her company did with Merrill Lynch, "The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility and Financial Complexity." The author notes one unexpected positive found in the study is the caregivers finding the act of caregiving benefitting them, perhaps as much as those receiving the care.
The majority of respondents (65%) also said that caregiving has brought meaning and purpose to their life. Most (77%) went so far as to say they would gladly take on the role of caregiver for another loved one. More than half (61%) told us the biggest benefit of being a caregiver is feeling that they’re doing the right thing. And often, caregivers begin to take better care of their own health as a result of their caregiving experience (86%).
The article discusses the obstacles encountered in caregiving, including the role reversals that can make the relationship difficult. "Nearly half (45%) of all caregivers say they are struggling with this, while trying to meet what they tell us are their top three goals: preserving the dignity of their loved one, providing the best care possible, and keeping their loved one out of an institution. Many caregivers also believe part of their role is to make sure the recipient does not feel like a burden, even when they might be."
The article stresses the importance of a family conversation--and early. The talk needs to include financial caregiving, which may end up being a big part of the need.
As it turns out, financial caregiving is a critical part of the picture—but one that’s not often discussed. Financial caregivers in our study are contributing to the cost of care, coordinating and managing finances for their loved one, or both. More than half (52%) of respondents have no idea what they have spent on caregiving-related expenses. In fact, many contribute financially to the care of their loved one even when it’s detrimental to their own financial future.
The cost of caregiving is not easy or comfortable to talk about, but finances are an integral piece of the puzzle. Seventy-five percent of family caregivers have never discussed their financial role with their care recipient. It could be that talking about money is taboo, especially in the face of grave illness, or that the care recipient does not have the mental acuity to discuss finances. But the financial burden and emotional toll can be minimized if families talk it through and plan appropriately.
It’s important to get our heads around the costs and benefits of caregiving now, because it’s likely to be in each of our futures. As founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said: “There are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers; those who currently are caregivers; those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregivers.”