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“For most older Americans, care will come from unpaid family members or friends, who contributed around $600 billion worth of free labor to the economy in 2021, according to AARP. That care is not, of course, free for those providing it.

Dwane Hodges is a 62-year-old educator in North Carolina who spent over a decade looking after various elders in his family. Starting in the mid-1990s, he spent several years caring for his mother, who suffered from schizophrenia and lung cancer. With increasing frequency, he shuttled between his home in upstate New York and hers in South Carolina, taking her to medical appointments. “Once her cancer diagnosis got bad,” he recalled, “I started going down anywhere from every three months to every six weeks.”

While the details of each caregiver’s story are unique, the stressors they face are painfully common. Family caregivers spend around a quarter of their income on caregiving expenses, according to a 2021 study by AARP, with rent or mortgage payments, home modifications and medical payments accounting for much of the burden.

In addition, time spent looking after loved ones is time spent away from paid work, and this costs informal caregivers an estimated $522 billion annually in lost wages. Many suffer serious financial hardship and report a decline in their physical and mental health. Caregivers are at increased risk for serious illnesses, such as depression and cancer, and suffer a higher mortality rate than noncaregivers.

Read more in the New York Times.

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