Priceless Devotion Has A Price
Albany woman’s decision to care for mom shows trend in unpaid care that saves billions
By CATHLEEN F. CROWLEY Staff writer
Every night before she goes to bed, 97-year-old Madelyn Kurak tells her daughter, Kerry Curtis, that she plans to live to 105 or maybe longer.
“I think I’ll keep right on going,” said Kurak, who wears a butterfly barrette in her hair every day. “I’m going to beat the clock.”
After Kurak broke her leg in 2005, Curtis left her 6,000-square-foot house on 109 acres in Guilderland and moved into an apartment next to her mother at Ohav Shalom Senior Apartments in Albany. The move meant that Kurak could continue living on her own, while Curtis cooked meals and cared for her.
“People say to me, ‘You gave up your life,'” said Curtis, 73, a semi-retired businesswoman. “But it came naturally to me — because that’s the way I was brought up.”
About one in four Americans care for an elderly relative or friend, according to a report recently published by AARP. The average caregiver, according to the report, is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and spends nearly 20 hours a week providing unpaid care to her mother.
The economic value of this unpaid care is $450 billion, according to the report, which is based on 18.4 hours of care per week at an average value of $11.16 per hour. New York has an estimated 2.8 million caregivers who provide about $32 billion of care.
“So many people think that families are abandoning older people to the government service programs, but government service programs pale in comparison to the billions of dollars in value of family caregiver time,” said Neal Lane, the former director of the state Office of Aging and a member of AARP’s New York executive council.
The dollar value of the family caregivers is nearly four times higher than what Medicaid spends on long-term care in both home and nursing home settings, according to AARP.
AARP is concerned that the efforts to reduce the nation’s debt may result in cuts to respite and homecare assistance for caregivers. In the end, Lane said that would cost the government more money if nursing home admissions went up.
The report says caregivers commonly experience financial problems, emotional strain and mental health problems, especially depression. About 70 percent to 90 percent of nursing home admissions are prompted by family caregiver burnout, Lane said.
Andelcare provides premier homecare in Seattle, Bellevue and surrounding areas. For more information about how the caregivers at Andelcare can help your family care for a loved one, call 888-788-3051.We provide companionship, homemaking and personal homecare services for many seniors, veterans and disabled in our community.