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Are We on the Brink of an Eldercare Crisis?

A shortage of home health aides is putting pressure on families coping with caregiving

AS WONDERFUL AS A LONG LIFE can be, it also increases the likelihood that you or someone you love will develop serious health issues—and that you’ll struggle to find caregiving solutions.

In the U.S., more than 12 million people need long-term health care, according to the National Council on Aging—and this figure is expected to grow to 27 million by 2050.1 Only 11% of adults aged 65 or older have private long-term-care insurance2, and Medicare generally doesn’t cover long-term care. As a result, more than 41 million Americans now act as unpaid caregivers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics3, and the majority of them are women, many of whom end up retiring early to take on the added responsibility. In the next decade, the demand for health aides to relieve family members may exceed supply by 3 million.4

Tips for Getting the Help You Need
According to “The Journey of Caregiving,” a 2017 report produced by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave, unpaid family members provide 37 billion hours of support to aging family members every year. Cynthia Hutchins, director of Financial Gerontology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, offers tips for juggling the complex responsibilities of helping a loved one while keeping your own life and financial goals on track.

“There are things you can do to build a support system,” Hutchins says. Start with an honest discussion among parents, children and your financial advisor. “Everyone—not just the daughter or son who happens to live closest to a parent—needs to be part of the eldercare conversation,” Hutchins adds. “Siblings who live far away can provide financial support, or they can help by communicating with a parent’s physicians or accountant.”

In the next decade, the demand for health aides to relieve family members may exceed supply by 3 million.

Also consider these outside sources of help in managing the daily responsibilities of caregiving. Geriatric care managers can coordinate parents’ treatments, accompany them to doctors’ appointments and handle medical emergencies. And if you’re taking care of your parents, reach out to caregiver support groups. Not only will you get emotional support, but “you’ll be surprised at what services others in the group might recommend to help you,” Hutchins says.

Finally, look into your employer’s paid family-leave policies. Hutchins notes that many companies, including Bank of America, are expanding their paid family leave to help employees be there for their families when they need them most.

For more tips and insights from Hutchins and others, explore “The Journey of Caregiving” report here.

In a recent Facebook Live event, Merrill Lynch participated in a wide-ranging conversation about caregiving, hosted by MFS and Redbook magazine. Watch the excerpt below, then check out “What Caregiving Costs Women” for more tips from the webcast to help you manage the responsibilities of caring for someone you love.

Transcript of Video

3 Questions to Ask Your Advisor

  1. What are some strategies I might consider to prepare for health-care costs in retirement?
  2. Is long-term-care insurance something to look into?
  3. I’ve heard there are promising medical developments that might help improve longevity and might also be good investments. What are some areas to consider?

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1 Age Wave/Merrill Lynch, 2017, "The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility and Financial Complexity"

2 American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, 2013


4 Osterman, P. 2017. Who Will Care for Us? Long-Term Care and the Long-Term Workforce. Thousand Oaks: Russell Sage Foundation



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