The Burden of Caring for Frail Parents
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Working without pay and often putting in long hours over many months or years, family caregivers improve
the lives of many frail older Americans. The help they provide saves the public billions of dollars
a year in nursing home and paid home care costs. Yet care responsibilities often create serious burdens
for caregivers, especially those balancing elder care duties with paid employment and childcare. More
public funds are needed to support their work.
Madame Chairwoman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about
the financial challenges confronting family caregivers.
Many Americans provide crucial support to their frail older parents. Despite recent health improvements
beyond age 65 (Manton, Gu, and Lamb 2006), most people continue to develop disabilities as they grow
older and eventually require assistance with the basic tasks of everyday life. Spouses and adult children
usually provide this help. Working without pay and often putting in long hours over many months or
years, family caregivers significantly improve the quality of life for many frail older adults. The
help they provide often keeps older people out of expensive nursing facilities and in their own homes,
which most prefer. Informal family caregivers also save the public billions of dollars every year by
reducing nursing home admissions and limiting the use of paid home care. Yet care responsibilities
often impose serious burdens on caregivers, especially those balancing elder care duties with paid
employment and care of their own children. These pressures will likely intensify as the population
ages in coming decades. Although awareness of these strains is growing, we still have few public policies
in place to support family caregivers.
In my testimony today, I would like to make the following points:
- Frail older adults are among the most vulnerable groups in the nation;
- Informal care provides crucial support to frail older Americans;
- Adult children provide much of the unpaid care frail elders receive;
- Elder care responsibilities often create financial hardship for caregivers;
- Care burdens will likely grow in the future as the population ages; and
- Family caregivers need better support.
(End of excerpt. The complete testimony is available in PDF format.)
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