As a Boomer, long-time caregiver and heavy consumer of health care services, I have paid closer attention to the aging of our population than most people. For me, a person with a chronic illness requiring treatment with drugs that cost thousands of dollars a dose, the question of how I will be cared for in my antiquity is real and immediate. Yet I know that it is not a “top ten” concern for most people. Maybe it should be.
The Bankers Life insurance group just published a survey that hints at how nearly all of us will be challenged by family caregiving duties in the very near future. In fact, “as 10,000 Americans continue to turn 65 each day, retirement care—whether due to injury, chronic illness or physical or cognitive decline—is becoming an increasingly urgent issue for which Boomers need to plan and address.” I would change that line slightly to read “Boomers, their spouses, and children.” Among the survey findings:
· Almost half (45%) of middle-income Boomers believe that they will need long-term care at some point—a number that is rapidly increasing.
· Two-thirds (68%) of middle-income Boomers are already providing care for a parent, and 17% are providing care for a spouse/partner or in-laws.
· A majority of middle-income Boomers (65%) would prefer to receive care in their current home, although over a third believe their homes will need to be modified.
· One-third of middle-income Boomers who are caregivers have had to tap into their retirement savings to pay for healthcare expenses.
There are about 74 million of us Boomers. These percentages represent huge numbers of people, and they are getting bigger. I am concerned that there is so little discussion of mass aging as a public policy challenge as well as a threat to family stability and economic well being. I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you. Shocked but not surprised. We have to do better.