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Report: Out-of-Pocket Expenses Squeezing Family Caregivers

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Monday, July 5, 2021   

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Providing care for a loved one comes with a lot of stress. A new report said there's financial pressure too, especially when it comes to out-of-pocket expenses, and Iowa families are feeling that pinch.

Research from AARP showed nearly eight in ten of those caring for an adult family member face regular out-of-pocket expenses. Annual average spending accounts for 26% of the caregiver's income.

Dorothy Pisarski of West Des Moines said it is something her family experienced when her husband had a stroke more than a decade ago.

"It's just like a tornado in your house where everything gets swept up because of this," Pisarski explained. "It's time, it's money, it's stress."

Her husband's disability resulted in a significant loss of income, which left Pisarski to manage typical expenses, along with things like transportation to her husband's appointments, on a leaner budget.

There are an estimated 300,000 family caregivers in Iowa. Their advocates want Congress to approve a bill that offers tax credits of up to $5,000 to those eligible. The plan has bipartisan support, but some observers noted it excludes retired individuals providing care.

Brad Anderson, state director for AARP Iowa, said there needs to be a sense of urgency for Congress to act, and noted working caregivers are reaching a breaking point.

"Caregiving as we know is oftentimes considered a part-time job, and so you have people working two jobs essentially, but one of the jobs they're not getting paid for. And those folks need help," Anderson argued.

Pisarski also called on health-care providers to offer more affordable options for medication, and to speed up communication on rehabilitation recommendations. She asserted it would have eased the burden in the immediate aftermath of her husband's stroke.

"Even in visits, in short moments, that would have been helpful in making good use of time to help in his progress," Pisarski remarked.

Meanwhile, the report said the highest expense burden falls on younger caregivers and those who are African American, as well as Latino caregivers. Iowa's Joni Ernst is the lead sponsor of the Senate bill.

Disclosure: AARP Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Community Issues and Volunteering, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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