Helping loved ones age in place is taking a financial toll on caregiving friends and relatives in California, according to a recent study.
In 2020, the first time in more than a decade, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) conducted a study of adult caregivers in California to help Congress set policies that would aid caregivers financially and protect their jobs.
“Because they provide a significant portion of care for people with chronic needs and disabilities, it is vital that we assess caregivers’ financial and mental health needs in order to support the creation or expansion of policies that can alleviate any kind of burden they are experiencing,” Sean Tan, lead author of the study and senior public administration analyst at UCLA CHRP, said in a press release.
The study found that nearly half of California’s estimated 6.7 million adult caregivers reported experiencing some level of financial stress due to their caregiving responsibilities. More specifically, about one in five (20.9%) caregivers reported the job was somewhat to extremely financially stressful. Caregivers who identified as black (28%), Asian (23.4%) or Latinx (21.9%) were more likely than those who were white (17.7%) to report caregiving was somewhat to extremely financially stressful.
While one in four California caregivers provided 20 or more hours of care per week, only one in 11 received payment for any of the hours dedicated to caregiving, and they often incurred out-of-pocket costs.
A widespread problem
Currently 48 million Americans are caring for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones so they can continue living at home. On average, these family caregivers spend nearly $7,000 of their own money on caregiving duties, and 45% have reported negative financial impacts, such as debt or an inability to save money. But money is not the only sacrifice these individuals are making.
A large number of caregivers in California (13.5%) said they suffered from a physical or mental health problem. The more hours they spent caregiving, the greater the negative impact on their overall well-being. Caregivers who provided 30 or more hours per week (21.5%) and 20 to 29 hours of care per week (21.1%) reported the highest percentages of suffering physical or mental health problems.
The UCLA CHRP study revealed that fewer than 1% of California caregivers reported using employment-based leave benefits in 2020 to support their caregiving responsibilities. The study authors hope to change that.
“Dedicated efforts to raise awareness of paid family leave benefits in the state through employment or employer agencies, resource centers and media can be made so that the state can provide critical aid to an ever-growing population of adults who shouldn’t have to compromise their own health,” Kathryn Kietzman, one of the study’s authors and director of the UCLA CHPR’s Health Equity Program said in a press release. “Moreover, health and social service providers can implement policies that require the assessment of caregiver needs and create more targeted programs that respond to the multiple challenges that many caregivers are facing.”
Legislation in the works
In support of caregivers and their families, AARP has endorsed the Credit for Caring Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide up to a $5,000 nonrefundable federal tax credit for eligible working family caregivers. The bill was introduced on May 18, 2021, in the Senate by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and in the House by Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA). If passed, the Credit for Caring Act would help working family caregivers offset the cost of caregiving expenses, such as home care aides, adult day care, home modifications, assistive technology, respite care, transportation and other much needed supports.
AARP is also advocating for paid leave for family caregivers. An AARP analysis released last March indicated that if caregivers age 50+ had access to support in the workplace, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product could grow by an additional $1.7 trillion (5.5%) by 2030 and by $4.1 trillion (6.6%) by 2050.