Mark is unemployed and has a dilemma. As an older boomer, he’s often described as “overqualified” for many jobs, which really means he’s “too old.” And with no job, his time and declining finances are split between supporting school-age kids on one hand and caring for a live-in elderly parent on the other. Now a study by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research shows that he’s not alone.
“Effect Of Informal Care On Work, Wages, And Wealth” concludes that long-term eldercare of a loved one can keep informal caregivers out of the labor force. The study examines this rhetorical question, “Do adult children who work less become informal caregivers, or do informal caregivers work less?
Providing care and support for elderly or disabled family members can be time-consuming and exhausting and have long-term impacts on retirement income and quality of life long after the caring episode ends. That’s because, even for those with jobs, they tend to work less hours, take fewer responsibilities, and forgo promotions in order to fulfill their caregiving obligations.
The problem will worsen as adult children become an increasingly important source of informal care, as the baby boomer generation ages, as the number of divorcees increases, and as different life expectancies between men and women result in a larger number of widowed elderly women. The effects on labor force participation are similar for men and women caregivers but increases with the duration of care.
This is an important public policy issue since informal caregivers could place a higher burden on government social programs later.
The report did not examine the long-term cost implications of home healthcare with informal family caregivers versus institutional care in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, although it did imply that the negative effects on families is marginal, and that would suggest that home healthcare is still far less expensive. It would be good to see a study that examines total costs to families and society over the long-term.
Caregiving is a Heavy Responsibility
As noted in The Elder Care Study: Everyday Realities and Wishes for Change, “Almost one in two individuals in the workforce (42% or nearly 54.6 million employees) have provided elder care over the past five years. Women are more likely (44%) than men (38%) to provide family care on a regular basis rather than on an intermittent basis. In addition, women spend more time than men providing care on average. Women spend 9.1 hours a week providing care, while men spend 5.7 hours as caregivers.”
A MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers found that baby boomers face double jeopardy when caring for their parents, and total costs to the U.S. economy are about $3 Trillion in Lost Wages & Social Security Benefits: