What Is the Financial and Emotional Impact of Caregiving? – The 2021 Fidelity American Caregivers Study

November is National Family Caregivers Month — a time to celebrate, recognize, and honor the contributions of family caregivers across the country. This commemorative month offers an opportunity to raise awareness of caregiving issues, educate communities, and increase support for caregivers.

The Emotional and Financial Impact of Caregiving

As many of you know, caregiving can often have a significant impact on the life of the caregiver in more ways than one. It can make maintaining your physical and mental health more difficult and may put a strain on work and social life. This is why it’s so important for caregivers to take care of themselves to maintain their mental and physical health to better serve their loved ones.

Across the country, an estimated 53 million Americans provide unpaid care for loved ones. This includes those providing care for children, aging parents or partners, and those with a disability or experiencing illness. As the number of people giving and receiving care continues to grow, planning and financial needs demand attention and support. Fidelity’s recently released American Caregivers study shares insights about awareness and management of the costs of caregiving, both emotional and financial, best practices around planning and managing care responsibilities, and lessons to be shared with future caregivers.

Findings from Fidelity’s American Caregivers Study

Fidelity’s American Caregivers Study, which was completed from April 16-30, 2021, represents responses of 1,008 American caregivers, all of whom either currently provide care or have been caregivers within the past five years. To be included, caregivers to adults (which I will focus on) must provide a minimum of five hours of care per week.

Caregiving is one of the greatest acts of selflessness and love but can also pose numerous challenges in terms of time and responsibility. Caregivers say their decision was mostly emotional (based on feelings of love or obligation, etc.). Here are some more findings from the Fidelity study:

  • Seventy-eight percent said they had no idea how demanding caregiving would be until they became a caregiver themselves.
  • Seventy-seven percent of caregivers say they really did not have a choice but to assume caregiving responsibilities.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of caregivers say they feel appreciated for their efforts, and the time spent has brought them closer to loved ones.
  • Given the number of hours caregiving responsibilities often require, many find themselves faced with choices related to reducing hours or stepping away from the workforce.
  • Many employers offer benefits or other accommodations to support caregivers, but employees may not know to ask before they make a decision to step back.
  • Only 40 percent of working caregivers who were eligible said they asked their employer about resources to help with caregiving needs. Men with care responsibilities were more likely to ask about company options than women (42 percent versus 37 percent), demonstrating the opportunity that exists for employers to do more to increase awareness and help more women feel comfortable raising their hands when help is needed.
  • Among caregivers for adults:
    • Nine percent left their job.
    • Seventeen percent reduced hours from full- to part-time.
    • Three percent took a leave of absence of six months or longer.
    • One in five (19 percent) report giving up work opportunities (turning down promotions/offers, or choosing not to pursue them) due to caregiving responsibilities.
  • More than three-quarters (79 percent) of caregivers report their responsibilities have led to financial, social, mental, or professional setbacks. These include: financial goals (40 percent); social life, time with friends (37 percent); mental health (36 percent); and career or work goals (33 percent).
  • Women are more likely than men to report caregiving has taken a toll on their mental health (38 percent versus 28 percent).
  • A majority of caregivers recognize how caregiving can adversely affect their finances, including potential loss of raises and promotions, contributions, and potential growth of retirement savings, additional employer contributions to any retirement and/or health savings accounts (HSAs), health care coverage, and Social Security credits; less than one-third took the time to calculate at least these costs.
  • Nearly half of all caregivers say they couldn’t handle another year like 2021.

Create a Roadmap to Navigate the Caregiving Experience

Caregiving can be overwhelming and stressful in many ways. Creating a roadmap to navigate the caregiving experience can have a significant positive impact on how to manage all of the day-to-day aspects of providing care.

In her new book, The Sudden Caregiver: A Roadmap for Resilient Caregiving, Karen Warner Schueler, a fellow alumnus from the University of Pennsylvania, offers a guide, roadmap, and source of comfort for anyone who is caring for a loved one, especially those for whom the role of caregiver was unexpected. In writing the book, the author is on a mission to help caregivers navigate the ins and outs of caregiving, and, as she says, “plan for the unplannable.”

Karen and her husband, Joel, who she cared for when he had cancer, worked together to proactively create a practice of resilience. “We could hope for a cure, but we knew the odds,” Karen said. “So we hoped for completing projects, having good days, and watching as many sunsets as possible.”

The Sudden Caregiver is divided into three parts: how to be a caregiver, how to do caregiving, and how to move beyond caregiving to integrate the lessons of caregiving once the role of caregiver ends. Karen guides readers through evidence-based strategies that are designed to help raise well-being and resilience for both the caregiver and the person in their care. With the acronym C-A-R-E (Crisis, As Normal as Possible, Resolution, and Evolution), Karen explains what she calls the four phases of the caregiving journey and helps the reader apply what they need for their situation.

Cruising through Caregiving

Another excellent book on the topic of caregiving is Cruising Through Caregiving, written by my good friend Jennifer FitzPatrick, MSW, CSP, the Founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc. Jennifer is a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Fast Company, and The Chicago Tribune. Having been through nearly every possible scenario on the caregiving spectrum, both professionally and personally, Jen’s book expertly shows you how to be a responsible, loving caregiver without being overcome by guilt, exhaustion, or worry. I highly recommend this book to all of my clients and all people who are struggling with how to best care for their elderly loved ones. Jen is extremely experienced in her field and speaks with a clear voice and convincing authority. Unlike many caregiving books that are written by caregivers and are mostly anecdotal based on the singular experiences of that caregiver, this book is based on the author’s personal experiences as well as her vast career experience in the field of geriatric social work.

As many of you know, being a caregiver is one of the most difficult roles you can take on. If you’re having trouble keeping up with your list of responsibilities, know that you’re not alone. By becoming aware of the tools that can make your job easier and developing a roadmap for care, you can effectively manage the stress you may be feeling and be at your best to care for your loved one.

Are You a Family Caregiver?

If you are a caregiver for a loved one, as mentioned in the tips above, it is wise to plan in advance. Nursing homes in the DC Metro area cost $12,000-$14,000 a month, which can be catastrophic for most families. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Whether you find yourself overwhelmed because you are suddenly facing the need to be a caregiver with no advance preparation, or whether you have been cruising through caregiving for years and have finally reached your limit, please call us today to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Elder Care Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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