Caregiving Can Be a Mixed Blessing, Families Say

by Greg Daugherty Health Writer

Having a devoted family caregiver can be a blessing for the person who needs help. But it is often a very mixed one for the caregivers themselves, according to a new report from the Transamerica Institute, “The Many Faces of Caregivers.”

Based on a nationwide survey of more than 3,000 nonprofessional caregivers, the September 2017 report explores both the demands and rewards of caregiving and would be worthwhile reading for anyone who might someday take on the role.

Safeguarding your health while caregiving

A majority of respondents (55 percent) said their own health “takes a backseat to the health of my care recipient.” Similar percentages said that their duties left them physically or emotionally exhausted. What’s more, 17 percent of caregivers, or close to one in five, reported that their own health had declined since they’d taken on their caregiving responsibilities.

Yet 15 percent said their health had actually improved, and 70 percent said that being a caregiver “has led me to take better care of my own health,” suggesting that caregivers who can find time to look after themselves may be able to stave off any serious ill-effects.

Managing the financial burdens of caregiving

Becoming a caregiver can also impose a financial strain. Some 75 percent of respondents said they received no financial support for their caregiving, from the person they were assisting, other family members, or government programs.

The caregivers’ out-of-pocket costs ranged from zero to more than $1,000 a month, with those who consider themselves “primary” caregivers paying a median of $250 a month. For “non-primary” caregivers, the median was $50.

For most, the burden was bearable. While about one in five of those surveyed (18 percent) reported that being a caregiver had a negative impact on their financial situation, 65 percent said their situation was unchanged, and 13 percent said it had actually improved.

Of course, few caregivers are motivated by potential financial rewards. As the report’s authors note, “It is truly a labor of love that comes without a paycheck.” Indeed, “I want to care for my loved one,” was the major reason for becoming a caregiver, cited by 63 percent of the respondents.

Find more tips and resources on the financial aspects of caregiving.

Greg Daugherty
Meet Our Writer
Greg Daugherty

Greg Daugherty is an award-winning writer and editor specializing in retirement topics. He has served as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest New Choices retirement magazine, executive editor of Consumer Reports, where he wrote a popular column about preparing for retirement, and senior editor at Money. His work has appeared in Money, Smithsonian, Parade, The New York Times, and, among others.