A scientific study is sounding more alarm bells about the caregiving crisis. The analysis—conducted by Stipica Mudrazija, a senior research associate at the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute—found that the annual economic cost of unpaid caregiving in the United States, currently standing at about $67 billion, will "likely double" by 2050, rising to $132–$147 billion.
Furthermore, the increase in older Americans with disabilities is expected to outpace the increase of potential caregivers in the coming decades, "suggesting that the United States can expect a substantial increase in the share of working-age adults who provide essential care to their frail parents and other family members," Mudrazija writes in the study. "Insofar as some of them will stop working or scale back their work effort because of caregiving activities, future levels of related forgone earnings—that is, work-related opportunity costs—could increase substantially."
That's not all of the bad news. As we previously discussed, recent Harvard Business School research found that of the 75 percent of U.S. workers who have caregiving responsibilities, 28 percent said their caregiving obligations had hurt their careers, 32 percent said they had left a job because of life-work incompatibility, and 80 percent said their responsibilities at home kept them from doing their best at work. And Gallup estimated in 2011 that caregiver absenteeism costs the U.S. economy more than $25 billion annually.
Meanwhile, with the proportion of older Americans growing, millennials have become a "sandwich generation," caring for friends and family both younger and older. The average millennial caregiver already spends an average of 21 hours a week caring for a loved one. And with an aging population in the United States, that commitment will likely grow.
"As tens of millions of people take on caregiving responsibilities each year, supporting those caring for our aging population has become one of the most pressing financial issues of our lifetime," Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Forbes contributor Joseph Coughlin last year.
There is hope, however. Flexibility grants caregivers of any demographic the ability to customize the workday so they can stay engaged at work—and on advancement tracks—while fulfilling their caregiving responsibilities. DeskPlus and Remote keeps them closer to home for some or all of the workweek, while TravelLite limits the amount of business travel that takes them away from their loved ones. TimeShift and MicroAgility let them organize their working hours to attend to regular obligations or unexpected events. And PartTime lets them reduce their schedule without reducing their ambition.
The American workforce is facing a caregiving crisis, but we can still stop it from becoming a calamity. Read more about flexibility for caregivers here.