Caregiving Costs Caregivers Twice-Over

In the U.S., about 10 million people over 50 years of age care for at least one aging parent. That’s 1 in 4 adult children, mostly Baby Boomers. For these caregivers, it’s a case of “double jeopardy,” according to the latest MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers.

Caregiving translates into double jeopardy for older caregivers because they take a double financial hit: just as they’re entering sobering (for some, proverbially last-minute) savings mode  for retirement, they are compelled to lose wages and, ultimately, Social Security benefits which are calculated based on the last years of earnings. The chart shows that women caregivers are more severely impacted than men to the tune of $277,044 on average, which comprises two financial hits: directly, in lost wages forgone in reduced hours working and labor force exits; and, lost Social Security. If private pensions are included at an average of $50K, the total impact on caregiving women would be $324,044. 

While men and women are equally likely to provide care, MetLife finds that women tend to provide basic care and sons more likely to provide financial assistance. (Basic care in the survey is defined as personal activities such as dressing, feeding and bathing — the Activities of Daily Living). 66% of caregivers are women and 34% men. 57% of caregivers work outside of the home and 43% do not.

This challenge will exacerbate as Boomers age and their parents live with growing burdens of chronic disease aging into the frail elderly cohort. The proportion of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to parent(s) has more than tripled in the past 15 years.

MetLife analyzed data from the 2008 panel of the National Health and Retirement Study conducted by the University of Michigan along with MetLife’s forecasts on the extent to which adult children take care of their parents.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  The implications for adults who provide care to aging parents are financial and physical. It’s clear from these data that caregiving by adult children results in financial loss in terms of both income and Social Security savings. In addition, monies put toward private pension plans [e.g., 401(k) plans] are also negatively impacted as wages and the worker’s disposable income declines.

On the physical front, adult caregivers are likely to postpone their own care while focusing on the needs of their loved ones, MetLife suggests. The irony is that working women and men who provide care to their parents are in worse health than adult children who do not provide care to aging parents, illustrated in the chart.


About Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn is a health economist, advisor and trend-weaver to organizations at the intersection of health, technology and people. Jane founded THINK-Health after spending a decade as a health care consultant in firms in the U.S. and Europe. Jane’s clients are all stakeholders in health, including technology, bio/life sciences, providers, plans, financial services, consumer products, public sector and not-for-profit organizations. Jane founded the Health Populi blog in 2007, covering health policy, technology, and consumers.

3 Responses to Caregiving Costs Caregivers Twice-Over

  1. Lindsey Riley June 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Great information Jane! Thanks for sharing!

    With the number of Americans over 65 expected to more than double between 2000 (12.4% of the population) and 2030 (19.6% of population) and the average life expectancy trending upwards more households are going to be affected by caregiving.

    Another study done by Joe Coughlin of MIT Age Lab and Healthways Center for Health Research found a strong connection between caregiving and productivity and well-being. Some of the key findings include:

    • Approximately 52 million Americans act as a caregiver to an adult who is ill or disabled;
    approximately 59% are employed.
    • Caregiving has shown to reduce work productivity by 18.5% and increase the likelihood of
    leaving the workforce.
    • Caregivers, regardless of employment status, report that productivity in activities of daily
    life is reduced by 27.2% as a result of caregiving responsibilities, and that the effect on
    personal life is 3 or more times greater than the effect on employment.

    Their findings suggest that caregiving is associated with negative emotional and physical consequences, including a much higher rate of depression. And within the working population, caregivers have a less positive work experience, overall, compared to non-caregivers.

    For more on the impact of caregiving, visit:


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