elder care, in home care, caregiver
AP/Seth Perlman
Caregiver Joann Milam folds Nancy Rutherford's laundry in Springfield, Ill. Services for seniors could be cut back this year because of the recession and state's budget deficit.

Family Caregivers Hit Hard by Recession

May 25, 2009 08:00 AM
by Haley A. Lovett
Many of the 44 million U.S. citizens caring for a loved one have had to cut back on basic necessities or dip into savings to continue care during the faltering economy.

Caregivers Lose Jobs, Security, Homes During Recession

A recent survey by Evercare and the National Alliance for Caregiving, titled “The Economic Downturn and its Impact on Family Caregiving,” found that 15 percent of those now caring for a loved one have lost their jobs during the economic downturn. And although losing a job might create more time for the caregiver to provide care, it means less money for basic necessities. 

Nearly the same percentage of caregivers as those who have lost their job have had to increase their spending on care, due perhaps to financial losses by the sick or injured loved one. Of those spending more on caregiving, more than 40 percent reported borrowing money or using credit cards to help pay for expenses.

In an attempt to cut costs, more than one fifth of family caregivers have moved in with a loved one during the past year.
Jodie Kalmen, who told her story to The Orange County Register, is among those struggling to stay afloat. Kalmen’s husband has suffered from frontal lobe dementia for the past four years and is unable to work. She does not have health insurance and lost her job as a bus driver. She also cares for her two teenage sons. The family had savings, but they are gone, and it now uses Mr. Kalmen’s IRA to help make ends meet.

Kalmen’s story isn’t unique. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Tom Brinkmoeller explained how the recession has affected his finances as he cares for his wife Linda, who had a stroke in 1999. After her stroke, Brinkmoeller left his job. He has been using their 401(k) savings and Linda’s disability payments to supplement their income, and he plans to take out a reverse mortgage. Brinkmoeller has also decided to put off treating prostate cancer, which he was diagnosed with a few months ago, until he qualifies for Medicare.

Background: Family caregivers in the United States and around the world

In a 2008 joint report, the AARP, the American Journal of Nursing, the Council on Social Work Education, the Family Caregiver Alliance and Rutgers University examined the state of family care in the United States, and asked that more training and resources be made available to family members who care for loved ones. The report looks to those in the nursing and social work fields to help assist family caregivers and provide them with the support they need to give the patients adequate care.

According to the report, there are 44 million people caring for adults 18 and older in the United States, and the care they provide is worth about $350 billion a year.

In a summary of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) 2008, AARP International takes a look at how countries around the world are addressing the needs associated with family caregiving. In the U.K., caregivers can request services from the government, and they are allowed to request flexible work schedules. New Zealand is developing informational resources for its caregivers, and nongovernmental organizations are trying to find ways to help older Africans, whose need for care is hard to meet with Africa’s AIDS crisis and lack of resources. In some countries, such as Pakistan, where family care is a long-standing tradition, government help and information for caregivers is scarce.

Reference: Caring for a family member or friend

For more information about long-term care for a friend or family member, as well as links to support services and educational material for caregivers, visit the findingDulcinea Long Term Care Web Guide.

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