The acting commissioner of the Dutchess County Department of Services for Aging, Veterans and Youth penned an article this week on the toll that elder caregiving takes on family members throughout the state. The purpose of the piece was two-fold: to recognize the amazing work done by so many local residents and to remind community members of the immense benefit of planning for the elder care they will likely need down the road.
The article, published in the Poughkeepsie Journal this week, refers to the recent AARP study which found that a staggering 42% of working-age U.S. citizens provided some form of unpaid elder care, with half of all citizens expecting to do that in the coming five years. In other words, this is not an isolated concern that affects “other people.” All of us, at one time or another, will have to deal with this situation.
Sadly, as noted in the AARP Report, the effect of providing this care (averaging 20 hours per week) is often more far-reaching than many suspect. It is not uncommon for elder caregivers to face limited work flexibility, denied leave, or even termination from their own paid job as a result of the care they are providing to their senior friend or family member. All of this is on top of data which suggests that senior caregivers has negative health consequences of their own. A MET Life study on the issue found that poor health was more common among those helping senior in poor health themselves.
Staggeringly, the average financial cost to the caregiver over the course of their support was listed as $303,800. That figure was reached by measuring lost wages, lost pension benefits, and lost Social Security benefits. These are not small sums, particularly considering the caregivers themselves might need their own support down the road.
The important theme in the article is the need to continually thank those throughout our community who work without recognition each and every day to help their friends and family members in need. But it is also a clear reminder of the prudent need for all of us to think about our own future.
No one knows for sure who will be in a position to provide assistance in case we have a health problem or simply need support because of the basic facts of aging. Tools are available to help prepare for these needs. Take a moment to talk with an elder care lawyer today to see how we can help.
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