The High Cost of Caring for an Aging Relative

Care giving responsibilities affect your bottom line and your health

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Those who work full time and take care of an aging relative may be more likely to develop health problems, suggests a new case study from the University of Pittsburgh Institute on Aging, National Alliance for Caregiving, and Metlife Mature Market Institute. The survey found that workers caring for an elderly family member were significantly more likely to report suffering from depression, diabetes, hypertension, or pulmonary disease than their coworkers. Caregivers also reported experiencing greater stress at home and at work.

[See Cutting Back on Work to Take Care of Mom.]

The survey of 17,097 U.S. employees at a single manufacturing corporation between 2000 and 2007 found that 12 percent reported caring for an older person. About half of the 1,983 caregivers were age 50 or older and they were evenly divided between white and blue collar workers.

[See 5 Proposals in Obama’s Budget for Retirement Savers.]

The study also found that the employer was paying 8 percent more for the health care of employees who were responsible for the care of elderly relatives. The researchers estimate that care giving employees cost U.S. companies an extra $13.4 billion per year.

[See What Retirees Wish They Had Done Differently.]

Sometimes care giving responsibilities also cause workers to leave the workforce earlier than they originally planned to. Among the 47 percent of seniors who retired early in 2009, 18 percent reported having to care for a spouse or another family member as a reason for doing so, according to a national Employee Benefit Research Institute survey.

Tell us, how has balancing caring for an elderly relative with work has impacted your health?