Caregivers often use own money to care for loved ones, AARP study shows

Published Nov 27, 2018 at 4:00pm

Six in 10 family caregivers use their own money to care for their loved ones according to a new AARP New York survey of the state’s current and former family caregivers ages 40 and older.

Of those, 43 percent say spending their own money negatively affects their finances.

The survey highlights the need for New York to pass a tax credit for family caregivers and make investments in home and community based services for middle class families caring for older family members in the FY 2020 state budget. 

Of those caregivers who have spent their own money on care, nearly half say it affects their ability to save for retirement (46 percent). For one in three, it affects their ability to buy every-day necessities (35 percent) or pay bills (34 percent).

“We hear time and again from people who care for their family members that it’s a labor of love, but the stress and strain hit them in their pocketbooks and their retirement accounts,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. 

“Whether it’s gas money to get to the doctor or paying out of their own pockets for health care equipment or home modifications, New York’s family caregivers need help. It’s time for the state to adequately fund aging programs and offer a tax credit to the family caregivers who give so much,” Finkel said.

AARP is urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include a tax credit for 50 percent of qualifying expenses, up to $3,500, per family caregiver in the state budget proposal he submits early next year. 

The tax credit would be available to New Yorkers filing individually with gross incomes up to $75,000 and for couples with gross incomes up to $150,000. 

In addition, AARP is urging the governor to make an additional $25 million investment in cost-effective services that help older New Yorkers age in their own homes and communities as long as possible — in part by assisting family caregivers in providing the necessary care.

Transportation (69 percent) is the top expenditure for those spending their money on caregiving, followed by assistive technology such as wheelchairs and hearing aids (46 percent). One in three caregivers also spent money hiring home health aides (33 percent) or using homemaker services (33 percent), such as housekeeping or laundry. 

Hispanic/Latino caregivers are more likely to spend money on respite care (48 percent), adult day care (31 percent), homemaker services (62 percent) and home modifications (50 percent).

New York’s nearly 2.6 million family caregivers provide unpaid care valued at $31.3 billion annually across the state. 

In addition to the financial costs, 78 percent of current and former caregivers reported feeling at least one of the nine stressors asked about in the survey.

Over half of working caregivers admitted to feeling stressed in trying to balance their job and their family (56 percent); and half of all caregivers felt stressed emotionally due to caregiving (53 percent).  About three in 10 found it difficult to exercise regularly (29 percent), to manage their own health (30 percent).

AARP New York commissioned the telephone survey of 1,172 registered voters age 40-plus in New York to learn about their experiences with family caregiving. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus-or-minus 2.9 percent. Detailed methodology and the survey annotation are available at www.aarp.org/research.