In the U.S. there are approximately 62 million unpaid Family Caregivers. In a recent AARP report, if it wasn’t for these unpaid family caregivers, this country would be in even more dire straits. These family caregivers increasingly, middle-aged offspring taking care of their elderly parents – provided $450 billion worth of unpaid home care in 2009, states AARP. That's more than the total Medicaid spending that year or more than Wal-Mart Inc.'s total sales in 2009.
It's also 20 percent higher than unpaid home care totals for two years earlier.
"If the family caregiver were no longer available, we'd see an immediate rise in nursing home use and hospitalization," said Susan Reinhard, AARP senior vice president for public policy. "Being a family caregiver is becoming a fact of life, and it's becoming more complicated because of the increasing demands of health care.
For two-thirds of older adults, family members are the only source of care.
Statistically speaking, the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works full time and will spend 20 hours a week for five years helping her elderly mother. She makes 15 percent less than colleagues who don't take care of aging relatives, according to census data.
Juggling caregiving responsibilities, will cause reduced work hours or quitting the job. Also, caregiving increases stress and researchers have found, that you may lose up to 10 years off your life expectancy. Additionally, up to 70 percent of caregivers suffer clinical levels of depression, experts say.
Senior Life Care Planning, support groups and community organizations can also help family caregivers find relief from the stress.
"It's about taking care of yourself as much as the person you're providing care to," states David Wingate, President of Senior Life Care Planning.