Caring for an ageing parent or spouse can be challenging, both physically and mentally. And now a study to be released today shows that, in the US, it is also financially draining.

According to an article in the New York Times, the study shows that the out-of-pocket cost for family caregivers averages about US$5,500 per year, a sum that is more than double previous estimates and more than the average American household spends annually on health care and entertainment combined. The study, entitled ‘Family Caregivers: What They Spend, What They Sacrifice”, was conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare, a division of the UnitedHealth Group.

Significant findings from the study include:

  • The most common expenses for caregivers are household goods and food, transportation, medical co-payments and pharmaceuticals, clothing and home repair and maintenance.
  • The most common strategy for covering these costs is cutting back on discretionary spending.
  • Other strategies involve caregivers compromising their own retirement; taking from savings accounts, cutting back on saving for the future and neglecting personal health care.
  • The highest out-of-pocket costs were incurred by long-distance caregivers, followed by those who live with their ailing relative.

It is estimated that 34 million Americans provide care for older family members or friends. This study helps further illustrate the extent of the challenges facing this country as the population ages.