WSJ Paints Bleak Future for Home Caregiver Costs, Availability

The current situation for American seniors who require in-home care is bleak, and it’s only going to get worse over time.

The Wall Street Journal last weekend described a dark future for the baby boom generation, pointing to data from the Census Bureau and Merrill Lynch that shows the demand for caregivers will far outstrip the supply: Between 2015 and 2050, the number of older Americans who may need in-home care is projected to rise by 84%, while the supply of caregivers will only grow by 13%.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s, meanwhile, will balloon by 160%, according to the data.

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“The ratio of caregivers to care recipients peaked in 2010 and has been falling since, in large part because of changing family dynamics,” the Journal noted, describing how more adult children live far way from their adult parents — while the proportion of elderly Americans who never married increases.

And that doesn’t take into account the wide swath of baby boomers who are still caring for their “Greatest Generation” parents. These at-risk seniors may have also spent down a significant amount of their own savings to put their parents into assisted living facilities or cover in-home care costs, while the once-stable social safety net fails to keep up with the modern cost of aging.

The result, in the WSJ’s estimation, is a “squeeze unseen in generations.”

“Their median incomes, including Social Security and retirement fund receipts, haven’t risen in years,” the WSJ writes of the current generation of retirees. “They have high average debt, some incurred from taking care of their own aging parents. And if they’re counting on family to care for them, too, they may well find their families too small and far-flung to meet the task.”

Some of the retirees profiled in the WSJ piece rely on friends, neighbors, or local charitable organizations to make doctors’ appointments and run errands, but even that can only take a senior so far: Volunteers frequently don’t receive reimbursements for mileage or supplies used to provide their care, and funding for such programs remains tight.

“Funding children’s initiatives is considered an investment in the future,” Tammy Glenn, acting executive director of the National Volunteer Caregiving Network, told the paper. “Older adults are considered an expense.”

Written by Alex Spanko