The Hidden Costs of Family Caregiving

July 23, 2014

Family caregivers take on their responsibilities from a sense of love and duty. But also, for many, the decision to assume the role of caregiver was not just one of the heart, but also one of the pocketbook.

Ironically, this is sometimes the more expensive alternative. Assisted living communities and nursing homes are quite expensive, and house cleaners can cost between $20 and $40 an hour. Following this, the logical assumption is that the more affordable option is caring for your senior yourself. But there are hidden costs to caregiving.

  • Decreased Sleep: Poor sleep quality raises the risk of automobile accidents and workplace injuries, as well as dementia, diabetes, heart disease and an array of other dangerous health conditions. Sleep is not a priority for those who provide care for elderly or disabled loved ones. Most family caregivers have sleep deprivation.
  • Increased Stress:   Most family caregivers try to hold down at least a part time job and look after a loved one. Because of this, the caregivers experience extreme stress, often resulting in ill health. This, in turn, creates more trips to health facilities, with cost to the caregiver and to the health system.
  • Decreased Employability: It is much more difficult to get back into the workplace if  caregivers have left  the workforce for months or years.  This is particularly a challenge  during times of high unemployment for it has created an extremely competitive labor market.
  • Lost Savings : Out of pocket expenditures paid by caregivers can add up quickly.  Often they have to access their savings, and these savings can erode in no time. Ideally these expenses should be shared equally by adult family members.
  • Reduced productivity: As a result of time needed to care for their loved one, and decreased efficiency because of overload, the costs of caregiving are not just on the caregiver but also on the businesses that employ them and the economy in general. Billions of dollars are lost each year.
  • Lost Wages: Family caregivers frequently have to leave their jobs, reduce their hours, or retire early. The majority of family caregivers report that their role has negatively impacted their career.

Family caregivers are the heroes among us. They sacrifice time, energy and money to look after loved ones in need. While every case is individual, generally speaking, there is a better and more cost efficient solution to caring for your elder than putting the onus for care on one person. As a family, research all the options--you may be pleasantly surprised at the choices and the combination of possibilities. It is the fair way to go.

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