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MOST OF US KNOW SOMEONE who is a caregiver. Many of us (40 million, in fact) are caregivers, providing 37 billion hours of support to family members coping with the realities of aging and illness. Twenty million new caregivers joined their ranks last year, so chances are good that you, too, could become a caregiver (if you’re not already one).
Those are just some of the eye-popping stats revealed in a new report, “The Journey of Caregiving,” produced by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave, a thought leader in the study of aging and its implications for society.
While many previous studies have looked at caregiving’s physical and emotional challenges, very few have explored its financial costs. “Many caregivers find they have to dip into their savings or take on debt to cover expenses,” notes Cynthia Hutchins, director of Financial Gerontology for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
““We found that 92% of caregivers are financial caregivers, providing help paying the bills, managing investments, handling insurance forms, preparing taxes and monitoring bank accounts,” says Ken Dychtwald, CEO and founder of Age Wave. “When we delved into the many ways that caregiving can upend financial plans, it became evident that financial advice tailored to caregivers’ needs is required—and, in fact 66% of the people we surveyed said they could benefit from such help.”
One other striking statistic: Nearly half of financial caregivers don’t have the legal authorization to manage their loved ones’ finances, according to Gallup Polls and the AARP. “If you’re in the position of helping a family member with their finances, make sure they put a durable power of attorney in place, giving you the authority to do so,” suggests Hutchins. “It could go a long way in preventing family conflict.”
Merrill Lynch also has a Client Contact Authorization Form that can identify you as the person an advisor should contact if any financial problems arise in an aging loved one’s account. “This can be very helpful in the early stages of the caregiving journey, before you’re fully involved in the financial aspects of caregiving,” notes Hutchins.
Despite the many challenges, caregivers find tremendous satisfaction in their role: 91% are grateful to be able to provide care and most would gladly take on the role again, according to the report.
“I think that when I look back—when my parents are gone someday—I'll be glad for the time we had, and the way our relationship changed as they grew older,” said one caregiver who participated in the study.
DOWNLOAD THE STUDY to learn more about the costs of caregiving and how you can prepare—and share this study with someone you know who is a caregiver.