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Family caregiving comes at a hefty cost for those providing unpaid care

Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - 2:52pm

Last week, the New York Times published a story about the toll of caregiving for an ill parent or spouse. It’s not a new phenomenon. Family caregivers have long stepped in to provide care. But this kind of caregiving comes at a price.

The story by Times writer Paula Span hits hard on the costs of family caregiving. She writes, “caregivers who are employed often reduce their work hours or leave the workplace altogether.” And these decisions can have lasting consequences. Dana Kennedy is the state director for AARP Arizona. 

"If you're not in the workforce, contributing to Social Security, contributing to your 401(k), you're not able to save appropriately. So it's going to definitely disrupt people's retirement plans," Kennedy said. 

Even if a person re-enters the workforce, they may do so at a lower wage or on a part-time basis. And that will impact the amount they’re able to save. 

Another challenge? By 2030, for the first time ever, there will be more people 65-and-older than kids. But there’s a price for exiting the workforce or reducing hours to provide care to an aging parent or spouse.

"We have not done enough to prepare. And I think a lot of people think that Medicare is going to cover the custodial care of long-term care, and Medicare does not. And so, if you don't qualify for some of these programs [like Medicaid], the families are gonna have to pick up the tab if somebody didn't prepare appropriately," Kennedy said. 

And if someone else is covering those caregiving costs, they may be unable to save for their own retirement in the coming years.