Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The high cost of caregiving

An article in the Orange County Register last week caught my attention. The headline blared, “Caregiving costs Americans millions.”

This isn’t ground-breaking news; we know that caregiving has a significant cost to businesses, and anyone who has left a job to become a family caregiver knows the high personal cost, too.

The issue today is that more and more of us are facing the need to become caregivers. As we baby boomers begin aging we face the challenge on a scale larger than anything seen in history: a caregiving need that will cost us, personally and socially, millions of dollars.

Of course, the tough economy isn’t helping matters. Where we might have, at one time, simply contributed to the cost of hiring more caregiving help, today we’re giving a job to a nephew (untrained and inexperienced) because he needs the work. We’re taking on the task of caregiving ourselves, after becoming down-sized or RIFed.

According to the story, “43 percent of caregivers have taken a pay cut or have been forced to work fewer hours as a result of the recession.” The story goes on to point out that as we live longer, nearly all of us can expect to spend at least a few years as caregiver to a parent or spouse.

And as we start to face these situations personally, we may, as a society, start to take steps to improve the awareness of the very real cost, both measurable and not.

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