Anchorage, Alaska – New research from AARP shows that nearly 8 in 10 of those caring for an adult family member (78%) are facing regular out-of-pocket costs, with the highest burden falling on younger caregivers and those who are Hispanic/Latino or African American. The organization is launching a national campaign this week urging Congress to do more to support family caregivers. AARP tracked what caregivers pay for using their own money and found average annual spending totaled $7,242, and, on average, 26% of the caregiver’s income. Housing expenses like rent or mortgage payments, home modifications, and assisted living made up more than half of caregivers’ spending, followed by medical expenses at 17%.
“This research reflects the incredible strain and sacrifices the more than 80,000 family caregivers in Alaska face every day. They are the backbone of our long-term care system, yet their backs are breaking from a lack of support,” said Teresa Holt, State Director for AARP Alaska.
“I spent my career as a nurse here in Alaska, spending most of my time in Nome and Anchorage, but forty years as a professional caregiver still couldn’t prepare me for my husband developing dementia,” said Michelle, a local caregiver who spoke with AARP Alaska.
“I spent a minimum of $600 per month on personal care items and dietary supplements, plus time taken from work, expenses for respite, and items not covered by insurance. Our family lifestyle changed dramatically.”
Out-of-pocket spending is much greater for some groups of caregivers, either in total dollars spent or as a percentage of average household income.
- Working caregivers who reported two work-related strains from caregiving, such as taking time off or working more hours, spend $10,525 each year on average – twice as much as caregivers who report one or no work-related strains.
- By age, Gen X caregivers spent the most money at $8,502, while Gen Z and Millennial caregivers reported the greatest financial strain, spending a larger share of their household income.
- Hispanic/Latino and African American caregivers also reported greater financial strain than White or Asian American caregivers. Hispanic/Latino caregivers spent, on average, 47% of their household income on caregiving, and expenses for African American caregivers totaled, on average, 34% of income.
- Caregivers caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease/dementia or mental health issues tend to spend more ($8,978 per year and $8,384 per year, respectively) than those caring for someone without those conditions.
In addition to direct out-of-pocket spending, caregivers are also experiencing indirect financial setbacks. Nearly half of family caregivers (47%) experienced at least one financial setback such as having to cut back on their own health care spending, dip into their personal savings or reduce how much they save for their retirement.
“AARP Alaska and our colleagues across the country are calling on Congress to pass the bipartisan Credit for Caring Act to provide some much-needed financial relief to family caregivers who work to help offset the cost of caring,” said Holt.
AARP has endorsed the Credit for Caring Act, which would provide a tax credit of up to $5,000 to eligible working family caregivers for expenses they incur as caregivers. The organization is launching a national campaign urging passage of the act and more support for family caregivers. The campaign involves significant grassroots advocacy, including at least 60 tele-town halls, a major digital and video advertising initiative, and social media outreach through AARP’s national and state offices. Already, more than 100,000 contacts have been made with Members of Congress. In addition, more than 110 organizations, including 36 military and veterans service and support organizations, have joined AARP in asking Congress to pass the Credit for Caring Act.
More resources for family caregivers, including a free financial workbook, are available at aarp.org/caregiving. The AARP Alaska caregiver resource guide can help Alaskans find local organizations, services and support available to family caregivers. Michelle, the family caregiver who spoke with AARP Alaska, also recommended the Alzheimer’s Association 24-hour help line, staffed around the clock, for caregivers dealing with memory loss in a friend or family member. That number is (800) 272-3900.