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When Caregiving, Coronavirus, and Finances Collide

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Kathy_Father_Discussion-large.jpgDad’s on a fixed income – he hasn’t got a lot. So, for the past couple of years, I’ve been helping him out. A little bit here and there, but it adds up. When I would pick up his meds at the pharmacy, I would just pay the co-pay. When I went to the grocery store and grabbed a few things for him, I didn’t ask him to reimburse me. And, well, it’s embarrassing, but I was the one buying his disposable underwear. But when the pandemic hit, I lost my job. Just like that. I can barely make ends meet for myself – what is going to happen to dad? He has to take his meds. He has a pee problem – what’s he supposed to do? Walk around wet? I’m sorry. It’s hard. The stress is really getting to me.

Before the pandemic, family caregivers were spending nearly $7,000 per year out of their own pocket when caring for an aging loved one  with some estimates reaching as high as $8,700 per year if you live further away.  How do caregivers find the money to do this? Caregivers report saving less for their own retirement or their kids’ education, putting off their own health care expenses and some caregivers even take loans or early withdrawals from their retirement accounts.

And then came job losses and economic uncertainty due to the pandemic. By July 2020, 30 million people were receiving some sort of unemployment insurance with many reporting that they felt “pushed to the brink”.  Since at least 29% of the US population are caregivers, millions of family caregivers are currently experiencing some sort of financial hardship related to unemployment due to the pandemic.

Job loss and financial uncertainty cause stress. Caregivers already experience more stress than non-caregivers. According to the CDC, 38% of unemployed adults are currently experiencing anxiety or depressive disorder that is directly related to the pandemic. But the CDC took a deeper look at how caregivers’ mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, and concluded that family caregivers, who are currently providing critical aid to persons at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, had a higher incidence of adverse mental and behavioral health conditions compared with others. The CDC recommends that caregivers should be considered for future assessment of mental health, given the findings of the report and hardships potentially faced by caregivers.

This is a time of caregiving in crisis. And now, more than ever we need to help caregivers with their financial security and their stress. Caregiver tax credits, paid leave for caregiving, and Social Security earnings credits for caregivers all could help.

Caregivers can call the Caregiver Help Desk at 855-227-3640, the National Alliance of Mental Illness Hotline at 800-950-NAMI (6264), the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or their own health care provider for immediate help.

About CAN
Caregiver Action Network is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age. CAN serves a broad spectrum of family caregivers ranging from the parents of children with significant health needs, to the families and friends of wounded soldiers; from a young couple dealing with a diagnosis of MS, to adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease. CAN reaches caregivers on multiple platforms. CAN (the National Family Caregivers Association) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.

Author: John Schall, CEO, Caregiver Action Network
John Schall became Chief Executive Officer of Caregiver Action Network in June 2012. Prior to joining CAN, he was Deputy CEO of the Parkinson's Action Network. As Vice President of Jefferson Government Relations from 2005 to 2009, he represented a number of health care companies and patient advocacy associations. Mr. Schall also served as the President and CEO of the National Congress for Community Economic Development (NCCED), a national trade association representing 3,600 anti-poverty organizations across the country. Read more about John Schall.


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