By June Fletcher
The financial and social costs of caring for aging parents don't just slam caregivers—they impact society as a whole, according to a MetLife study of more than 1,100 adults with at least one living parent.
Because caregivers often cut their hours or quit their jobs to take care of elderly relatives, their wages, pension benefits, Social Security contributions and retirement savings are slashed. The study estimates that the total aggregate loss for the nation's 9.7 million caregivers is $3 trillion.
Unfortunately, these losses are occurring at a time when the social safety net for seniors is fraying under political and budgetary pressures. "This is a wakeup call for caregivers to create their own social safety nets," John Migliaccio, director of research for the MetLife Mature Market Institute, told AgingCare.com.
The survey also showed that sons are more likely to provide financial assistance to elderly parents, while daughters provide more basic care like dressing, feeding and bathing. Yet both suffered financially. On average, each daughter lost an estimated total of $324,044, which includes $142,693 in lost wages, $131,351 in lost Social Security benefits and $50,000 in lost pensions. Sons lost less, but the impact was still substantial. Each son lost an estimated $283,716, including $89,107 in lost wages, $144,609 in Social Security benefits and $50,000 in pensions.
MetLife found that the number of caregivers who provide basic or financial care for their parents has more than tripled over the past 15 years. As boomers themselves age, demand for caregiving services will "undoubtedly grow" for several decades to come, the study noted.
As a consequence of the study, MetLife released a publication called "Planning Tips: Financial Considerations for Family Caregivers" to help those who want to help elderly relatives.
The publication suggests that if you are planning to leave your job to provide care, you should think twice, as it will affect your lifetime wealth as well as future job options; check with your current employer to figure out how you can replace current benefits should you leave your job; create a budget; look into public benefits; learn about Medicare and Medicaid; figure out how much it would cost to keep your loved one at home; consider enlisting a geriatric care manager; and discuss your parents' legal, financial and medical wishes with them.