The High Cost of Caregiving

By Mary Hickey

Caring for an older family member is costly to both families and employers – and it’s time for the workplace to develop policies to help people juggle the competing demands of work and caregiving responsibilities.

That was the bottom-line message from Cheryl Matheis, senior vice president of policy for AARP, who was interviewed on National Public Radio this morning as part of an ongoing series on caregiving.

“When people have to leave their jobs [to care for a relative], they lose on average about  $325,000 in lifetime income – from lost wages, lost Social Security and lost pension,” Mathais said.

The situation has consequences for employers as well.  “In 20 years, we’re going to have twice as many older people as we have now,  so the average worker is going to be a caregiver,” Mathias said.  She pointed out that the average caregiver is 49 years old and has a lot of value in the workplace.  “The employer will lose … if an employee is absent a lot or leaves to the workplace to deal with caregiving responsibilities.”

She thinks that employers are starting to “wake up to the fact” that they need to support their workers as they try to meet their caregiving responsibilities.

Want to learn more about how to juggle work and caregiving responsibilities?  Check out this article and others on AARP’s caregiving resource center.