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Survey: The financial impact of being a caregiver

By on November 16th, 2012
Filed: Caregivers, Disabled, Facts, Health Reform, Medicare, Parents, Research, Seniors

I’ve written recently about the calls and emails we get every day at eHealthInsurance from adults who are caring for an elderly parent or loved-one. During Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period the number of calls we get from Caregivers increases significantly.

Research shows that about 20% of all adults in America provide some form of unpaid care for an elderly parent or family member. And, adults in this situation often feel underappreciated and over burdened – I know from experience.

Earlier this month we published the results of a survey eHealthInsurance and PlanPrescriber conducted with AgingCare.com, an eHealth partner that provides an online support community for caregivers.

The survey covered topics ranging from Medicare enrollment and financial concerns to the emotional impact of being a caregiver. In this post I’ll share the results of the financial impact segment of the survey.

Social Security Income

The average income for people ages 65 and over was $29,718in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Current Population Survey. And, in 2008, 69 percent of seniors on Social Security received more than half of their income from Social Security. Social Security was the only source of income for one-in-four seniors.

Often times caregivers end up needing to help their parents financially. The majority of caregivers in our survey (84%) were over the age of 45 and the majority of all caregivers (60%) were “completely involved” in helping their parents make personal finance and retirement decisions. Only 14 percent were not involved in their parents’ finances at all.

41% of caregivers were helping their parents financially each month, and among those, 49% spent $3,000 or more per year supporting their parents financially. 24% spent over $6,000 per year on their parents’ care.

How much financial support do you provide to your parents?

Amount per month

Caregivers providing financial support

All caregivers

$500 or more



$250 to $499



$100 to $249



$50 to $99



$50 or less



no financial help



 Given that caregivers are spending so much money caring for parents, we wanted to know where their money was going.

Among Caregivers who Provide Financial Support to a Parent(s)

  • 92% – Day-to-day expenses. Nearly all of the caregivers who provide financial support are helping out with day-to-day expenses like food, gas and groceries.
  • 44% – Housing. Almost half (44%) were also helping with housing costs.
  • 24% – Prescription drugs. One in four (24%) were also helping pay for prescription drugs.
  • 23% – Medical care. One in five (23%) were also helping pay for medical care.

Retirement and Savings

When it comes to planning for retirement, two in five (43%) caregivers felt their parents had not saved enough money for retirement. The majority (65%) also felt they were in the same boat as their parents and were not saving enough for their own retirement. And nearly one-third (31%) felt they would have to dip into their own retirement savings to help their parents retire.

Have your parents saved enough for retirement?   Have you saved enough for your own retirement?  Will you have to spend some of your own retirement savings to help your parents? 
  • 43% – No
  • 42% – Yes
  • 16% – Don’t know


  • 65% – No
  • 21% – Yes
  • 14%  – Not yet saving for retirement


  • 69% – No
  • 31% – Yes


Caregivers and Retirement Income from Social Security

When the caregivers in the survey were asked how much they thought they would need to save in order to retire comfortably, nearly half (46%) said they’d need five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) or more, the equivalent of eight times a $62,000 annual salary. Not surprisingly, four out of five (80%) said they expected to be working well after they turn 65.

  • 17% – Want to keep working after age 65.
  • 62% – Will have to keep working after age 65.
  • 31% – Expect Social Security to be 40% or more of their retirement income.
  • 14% – Expect Social Security to be 80% or more of their retirement income.



About Jodie Jensen

At eHealth, Jodie Jensen trains licensed agents about the Medicare program so that they can better assist customers with questions. As the oldest daughter in her family, it fell to Jodie to take care of her aging father and help him choose a Medicare plan, an experience that had such a huge impact on her life and her family’s finances that it motivated her to change her career and become a licensed Medicare agent.

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