Financial Costs of Family Caregiving

Advice For Caregivers

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Updated: May 22, 2023


Family caregiving can be rewarding, but it can also be expensive.

As your loved one gets older, you might find that you are taking on additional responsibilities. You might be coordinating their physician appointments to meet your work schedule, dropping off their prescriptions at the pharmacy, or stopping by to check on them daily on your way home from work. Family caregivers quickly take on the additional tasks without a second thought. However, what happens when your caregiving tasks begin to affect your family’s bank account?

The financial costs of family caregiving and Life Alert cost might be higher than you think. Or, if you are in the thick of family caregiving right now, you might not be surprised to read that the financial toll can rapidly increase as more needs arise. In either case, you are wise to know more about the financial possibilities that can come with an informal caregiving role.

How Much Does Family Caregiving Cost?

While most informal family caregivers do not receive wages for their caregiving duties, the act of caregiving can still affect their bottom line. While the number changes from year to year, the Family Caregiver Alliance reports that the estimated economic value of family caregiver contributions averages about $375 billion each year. That means that it would cost $375 billion to replace that family care with paid services.

Most family caregivers, about 60% of those surveyed, work outside of the home in some capacity. When they add in their family caregiving tasks, working full-time can sometimes become unsustainable. Family caregivers can take FMLA in order to hold their jobs during especially busy caregiving times, but that time is typically unpaid. In fact, informal caregivers personally lose more than $650,000 over a lifetime and can watch their retirement plans dwindle.

Why Family Caregiving is So Expensive

If you aren’t currently a family caregiver, you might wonder how family caregiving can be so costly. After all, family caregivers are often one way to offset costs associated with home care or senior living options. Here are just a few ways that family caregiving can become so expensive:

  • Costs associated with home improvements or making a home more accessible for a wheelchair or walker
  • Increased gas prices for running to/from appointments or to/from the person’s home for check-ins
  • Increased grocery costs so the family caregiver can make extra portions for their aging loved one
  • Decreased workload or hours in order to care for loved ones means less money on a paycheck
  • Additional money for safety devices, such as a medical alert device
  • Financial considerations that go along with moving a loved one into the family home or moving into the older loved one’s home
  • Additional costs of care from a home care caregiver

Family caregivers also can end up with high absentee rates at work due to their caregiving role or due to living with the serious complications of caregiver burnout. This phenomenon that comes with caregiving duties can have serious physical and mental health repercussions leaving family caregivers ill more often and needing hospitalization more than their non-caregiving peers.

It’s Expensive for Everyone

While family caregivers can feel the financial pressure that happens when they are in a caregiving role, it can also be expensive for their loved one. Older family members can end up spending more as their health challenges increase, spending more for grocery delivery since they can’t get out to shop on their own or paying extra for a pharmacy delivery if they no longer drive.

Add in the common approach most families have about finances – we don’t talk about money – and you can end up with both parties feeling financially strained but not talking about it in order to find a solution.

Potential Solutions

Talking about a budget can help both of you make smart purchases in the grocery store and beyond

You can make your way through family caregiving without taxing your bank account or watching your pension slip away. Here are a few tips for keeping costs as low as possible.

  • Talk candidly about finances with your older loved one and with your siblings
  • Work with an accountant to ensure yourself and your loved one are getting any tax deductions that could save money
  • Make sure you are comparing costs when it comes to new services or devices
  • When you are shopping for your loved one, use their money and not your own
  • Develop a budget with your loved one so you both know how much money they are spending (and you are spending) each month
  • Talk with the Human Resources department and your supervisor at work sooner than later as you begin to take on caregiving roles. Find creative ways to ensure you are meeting your work obligations but also have the flexibility you need to meet your loved one’s needs as well
  • See if your state has a program where family members can be paid to provide care for older loved ones

Understanding the financial impact of family caregiving is important for family caregivers, but it doesn’t stop there. Employers, neighbors, and lawmakers must also understand the financial strain that can occur when family members are also taking on caregiving duties.