FYI Daily

Mayday! This "Job" Costs Caregivers Plenty

Last updated:

May 01, 2012
Parisian Love Lock

Caregiving at home is fraught with financial risks and personal sacrifices -- the magnitude of which family caregivers have little inkling before they take on the responsibility, notes the latest report in an ongoing, eight-week "Family Matters" series on NPR.

Profiled in the latest installment is Yolanda Hunter, 43, a former human resources worker in Maryland who thought the "job" of watching over her 89-year-old grandmother, who has Alzheimer's disease, would be relatively brief. "I can do this for a year, help settle things down, try and take the pressure off a little bit," she thought at the time she began caregiving.

Two-and-a-half years later, Hunter has yet to find the home nursing aide she'd hoped would solve the family's caregiving needs. Her mom, 66, works full time and takes over care of her mother (Hunter's grandmother) when she gets home.

Hunter tells NPR: "I desperately want to get back to work, because I'm mentally tired and I feel "” unless I win the lottery "” I feel like I'm missing out on so much in terms of my future and making sure I have a stable future." But also: "There's that part of me that is very, very torn about leaving her, because no matter how compassionate the next person may be, they're not going to do the extra things that you're going to do."

Those who drop out of the workforce "can jeopardize their future financial security," says a Met Life Mature Market Institute report. According to Met Life, the lost wages due to dropping out of the labor force because of adult caregiving responsibilities averages nearly $143,000 for the typical woman. That average covers the wages lost while not working "” typically about five years "” plus the lower wages she's apt to earn after returning to the workforce with rusty skills. Add in lost pension and Social Security benefits, and the out-of-pocket losses roughly double.

Options for how to get paid for family caregiving exist, but are limited. With the percent of older adults rising rapidly, will corporations address how to keep workers by offering more caregiving help?

Image by Flickr user the zartorialist.com, used under a Creative Commons license.