for New Hampshire News Connection
CONCORD — About one in eight people in New Hampshire is a family caregiver, according to a new AARP report that says these folks provide more than $2 billion worth of unpaid care for their loved ones.
State data from AARP's Valuing the Invaluable series shows that in 2017, about 177,000 Granite State residents provided an estimated 148 million hours of unpaid care for family members, worth an estimated $2.3 billion.
Family caregiving for relatives or close friends with chronic, disabling or serious health problems so they can remain in their home is nearly universal today.
In 2017, family caregivers in New Hampshire helped another adult loved one carry out daily activities such as bathing or dressing, preparing meals, administering medications, driving to doctor visits and paying bills.
The study found that family caregivers report that the stress of caregiving affects their physical and emotional health, finances and their jobs.
The majority of family caregivers (60 percent) work at a paying job in addition to their caregiving responsibilities.
Estimated economic cost of forgone earnings by family caregivers in 2013 was $67 billion.
That figure could double by 2050. Family caregivers spend, on average, nearly $7,000 on caregiving expenses.
AARP New Hampshire Advocacy Director Doug McNutt said the pool of caregivers will likely shrink soon.
"We've gone from a potential of seven caregivers for every adult over 80 in 2010, and by 2030, it'll be down to four," McNutt said.
McNutt noted one-quarter of family caregivers across the country are millennials, and 40 percent are men. He said AARP New Hampshire will advocate in 2020 to increase home- and community-based care for older adults.
In 2017, Roger Desrosiers and his wife were caring for his father and his wife's mother, housing them both while working full-time. Then, he said, another family crisis occurred.
"My son-in-law became very ill and suffered a stroke," Desrosiers said. "And as a result, we were trying to also support my daughter and their family, with two children, the best way that we could."
He said he and his wife traveled out-of-town to care for their grandchildren, and eventually, the family moved closer to them. But still, it was a lot.
Desrosiers said visiting nurses helped provide some care for their parents, but he thinks the family could have had better access to information about local services. Ultimately, he said, it's hard to understand what care-giving entails until you're doing it.
"I don't think any of us are trained, per se, to be caregivers. But it's something that, given a choice and thinking about what it means for you and your future and your family, it's one of the most important decisions that you can make for yourself and for your loved one," he said.
AARP New Hampshire also wants to see more respite care, so family caregivers can get a break, and not just for the holidays.