California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Adult Children Face High Costs for Elder Care

Health care costs are "astronomical" for many elderly people who are cared for by their adult children, "compromising the retirement of baby boomers who were expecting inheritances rather than the shock of depleted savings," the New York Times reports.

More than 15 million adult children nationwide are providing care for their elderly parents, including paying part or all of their housing, medical supplies and incidental expenses, surveys show. According to the Times, adult children with the highest expenses are those supervising care long distance, those who hire in-home help and those whose parents have too many assets to qualify for Medicaid "but not enough to pay for what could be a decade of frailty and dependence."

An AARP survey released last month found that most U.S. residents are unaware of the costs of providing long-term care and believe costs will be covered under Medicare. However, "Medicare is of almost no help, since it covers only acute episodes like a heart attack, cancer or repair of a broken hip," rather than the long-term, low-tech care most elderly people need, the Times reports.

A survey conducted in 2004 by the National Alliance for Caregiving found that half of adult children in the U.S. contribute to their parents' care. The average monthly expenditure by adult children was $200, according to the survey. Respondents who reported caring for their parents for at least 40 hours per week spent an average of $324 a month.

Gail Hunt, president of NAC, said those figures were based on "quick, top-of-the-head estimates." In addition, many out-of-pocket costs like clothing, home repair and telephone bills "go unnoticed," according to the Times (Gross, New York Times, 12/30/06).

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