These family caregiver are critical for the elderly to remain in their homes when disability strikes. More than two- thirds (68 percent) of Americans believe that they will be able to rely on their loved ones to meet their long term care needs when they require help, but this belief may collide with the reality of dramatically shrinking availability of family caregivers.
According to an AARP study, in 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than 7 potential caregivers for every person in the high-risk years of 80-plus.
By 2030, the ratio is projected to decline sharply to 4 to 1; and it is expected to further fall to less than 3 to 1 in 2050, when all boomers will be in the high-risk years of late life.
If fewer family members are available to provide everyday assistance to the growing numbers of frail older people, more people are likely to need institutional care—at great personal cost—as well as costs to health care programs. Greater reliance on fewer family caregivers to provide home- and community-based services could also add to costs borne by family members and close friends—in the form of increasing emotional and physical strain, competing demands of work and caregiving, and financial hardships.
The decades of the 2010s and 2020s will be a period of transition, as boomers age out of the peak caregiving years and the oldest boomers age into the 80-plus high-risk years.
The departure of the boomers from the peak caregiving years will mean that the population aged 45–64 is projected to increase by only 1 percent between 2010 and 2030. During the same period, the 80-plus population is projected to increase by a whopping 79 percent.
It is critical that families begin the conversation now to create a long term care plan for elderly family members. Do not wait for it to become an immediate crisis. The family must have a serious meeting to answer the following three questions.
- If mom or dad becomes incapacitated, where will they live?
- Who will take care of mom or dad if they need custodial care?
- How will they pay for this care?
The answers to these questions will form the basis for a long term care plan. If family members disagree regarding the answers to these questions, compromises must be made. The entire family must come to a consensus that everyone can live with or risk the disintegration of the family.