New research from Northwestern Mutual released in November revealed some surprising insights into the emotional and financial implications of delivering care to an elderly relative or friend. Drawn from the perspectives of both current and future caregivers, the C.A.R.E. (Costs, Accountabilities, Realities, Expectations) Study finds that Americans are often unprepared for the complex and unpredictable realities of longevity and caregiving.
The C.A.R.E. Study clearly illustrates that the cycle of care and dependency extends beyond child rearing. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans (36%) either currently consider themselves a caregiver to someone aging, ill or with special needs (other than a child) or say they have performed this role in the past. Notably, 59% of Americans feel that taking care of two adults between the ages of 85 and 90 would be more difficult than managing two children, ages 3 and 5.
Putting that finding in perspective, Kamilah Williams-Kemp, a vice president at Northwestern Mutual, noted in a company press release, “Unlike raising young children, the intimate nature of some of the tasks and the general role reversal between parent and child can be quite eye-opening.”
That is, the study exposed a significant caregiving disconnect. People without caregiving experience envisioned their role to focus mainly around performing such chores as grocery shopping (78%), cooking (73%) and laundry (72%). However, experienced caregivers’ responses painted a very different picture. Eighty- three percent cited emotional support as an important responsibility. Caregivers also focused on financial support and personal hygiene as aspects of caregiving that cause the most anxiety. Among people with caregiving experience:
- Three in 10 (31%) experience sadness and anxiety often or all of the time,
- One third feel resentment at least sometimes and of that group, 46% say it’s directed toward the person in their care, and
- Nearly half say they feel tired.
And, yet, many caregivers find the experience gratifying. Some 6 in 10 Americans say caregiving does/would provide the inner comfort of knowing they’re doing the right thing, and 48% view it as an opportunity to return care and support received earlier in life. In fact, a resounding majority (81%) of current caregivers say they would do it again.
Northwestern found those who might be caregivers in the future are anxious about the cost. Sixty-six percent said paying the extra costs would make a large financial impact on them, and 38% said they have not planned for these costs. When asked where the money would come from, 48% said they would cut discretionary living expenses, 27% said they would take it from their retirement savings, and 20% said they would get another job.
However, even though financial demands are a concern, experienced caregivers who listed financial costs as their top concern about caregiving are not actively addressing these costs. More than a quarter (27%) say they know they need to do something but have not taken any steps while 22% have just completely avoided the issue.
“With Americans living longer and the government estimating that 70% of adults 65 or older will require some form of long-term care, avoidance is no longer an option,” said Williams-Kemp in the study’s press release. “Candid conversations are the first step to creating a plan that will enable you to make the right decisions for your loved ones without compromising your own financial and emotional well-being.”
If this is a conversation you are interested in having, please contact our office to discuss.