The Cost of Being a Caregiver: Seen and Unseen Costs of Caring for Loved Ones

The Cost of Being a Caregiver: Seen and Unseen Costs of Caring for Loved Ones
3 minute read

Allison Grinberg-Funes

“Would you take care of a loved one if they needed your help?”

This is a question that many of us answer “yes” to, without pause. After all, it’s easier to see those we care about taken care of by people they’re familiar with, than in some type of home or caretaking facility.

But what about the cost of being a caregiver? There’s certainly a difference between thinking about the future, and living the reality of caring for those you love.

The Financial Cost of Caregiving

It’s no surprise to anyone that caregiving comes at a financial cost--but how much? According to a 2020 AARP report, caregivers spend up to 20% of their salary taking care of loved ones.

That’s a large percentage! It’s easy to underestimate the costs that go into caregiving and so 22% of people dig into their short-term savings, while 12% dig into their longer-term savings (according to the same AARP report).

Where is all that money going?

Food

Caregiving for a person means adding another mouth to feed within the household. Oftentimes, the people we’re caring for have restricted diets or specific dietary needs. This may mean liquid meals, foods containing or lacking specific ingredients, and more.

While we consider groceries to be a normal budget line item, the cost can increase when caregiving.

Medication & Prescriptions

While medications may not seem pricey to those of us who are relatively healthy, when you’re caregiving for someone ill or elderly, the expenses can add up. Twenty-five percent of a caregiver’s costs are used for medical expenses like doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, or prescription medication.

On average, caregivers in Canada spend $3,300 a year on medical expenses alone. When it comes to prescription and non-prescription drugs, caregivers for non-elderly patients spend over average $1,027 a year.

Transportation, supplies and equipment

Getting to doctor’s appointments and picking up medications costs money itself, too. Not only do caregivers spend on fuel, but they often decide to upgrade to vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs or other necessary equipment.

In addition to spending on fuel and adjustments to their vehicles, the cost of caregiving also includes supplies for home care, such as diapers, pads, wheelchair ramps, and more.

These items add up! Caregivers report spending $1,755 on items like devices, specialized clothing, and more. Individual transportation devices like wheelchairs can cost on average $4,000-$5,000 if purchased new, scooters can cost $2,400-$5,000, and walkers can be $400-$500 on average.

Lost Wages

The time that it takes to be a caregiver, often means sacrificing opportunities in their career. In some cases, because caregiving can mean taking time off at odd hours throughout the day, caretakers may not only find the need to cut down their working hours, but stop work altogether. In many cases, this means they no longer have access to their own benefits, meaning that if they need medical attention, it can come at a high cost.

According to AARP, female caregivers, who are 66% more likely to care for their loved ones, can end up losing up to $324,044 in benefits and lost wages over their time caretaking.

Emotional Cost

One of the largest, most underestimated costs of being a caregiver is that it takes on emotions. According to the American Psychological Association, not only do caregivers often have weaker immune systems, but they’re also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. And it’s understandable. Taking on the responsibility, time, and financial cost of being a caregiver can take its toll on people emotionally, which can also translate to physical ailments.

The Unseen Cost of Being a Caregiver: Planning Ahead

There are so many components that go into the cost of being a caregiver. Often when an individual, couple, or family makes the commitment to take on the care of someone they love, they don’t anticipate the true cost. Beyond taking on the financial burden of food, transportation, and medication, there’s also the cost of planning ahead.

All our lives come to an end and for those we care for, it often is up to us to arrange how they’re cared for after death. With Eirene, you can give yourself and your loved one peace of mind, knowing that arrangements will be handled with respect and transparency.