(This post originally appeared in Forbes.com)
When I went to the polls, an issue that was barely mentioned during the campaign partially guided my vote. I favored the candidates nationally and locally whom I thought would begin to address the looming eldercare/adult caregiving cliff. Why?
Yes, jobs are very important, but increasingly people will struggle to keep a job as the demand to provide unpaid care for aging relatives (e.g. parents, aunts, uncles, friends, adult siblings) grows exponentially. Ultimately, this demand will far exceed the current level of supports in the community and the public funds available to pay for those minimal supports.
More and more individuals and employers will find they need to fill the gap financially and physically, and the worst is yet to come. But we aren’t talking about it. At least not yet; however, that’s going to have change.
What does eldercare/adult caregiving look like in action?
A couple of months ago, AARP in partnership with the Ad Council launched a three-year public service campaign to raise awareness of the tens of millions of unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. today.
When I first saw the powerful PSA, “Silent Scream” on television, it was so accurate in how it portrayed of the complicated emotions related to caring for another adult that it took my breath away. (My only wish it that they’d shown someone trying to rush out the door to work while figuring how to keep their mother safe when the caregiver doesn’t show up).
If you haven’t seen it, check it out here. It is worth three minutes.
What is the current state of eldercare/adult caregiving in the U.S.?
There are approximately 314 million people in the U.S. today. According to AARP, of that number, roughly 42 million were unpaid caregivers that provided $450 billion worth of unpaid care to adult relatives and friends in 2009. This is care that we, collectively, would have had to pay for otherwise.
In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over a three-month period, 39.8 million people over the age of 15 said they provided care to someone over 65 years old because of “a condition related to aging. Of that 39.8 million:
- • One-third cared for two or more older people
- • 23% also cared for a minor child.
- • 85% of caregivers and elders did not live together
- • 56% of caregivers were women (44% men)
In other words, today about 13% of the U.S. population provides some type of unpaid family caregiving.
What is the projected future of eldercare/adult caregiving in the U.S.? (Click here for more)