Boomers Find Caregiving Harder Than Expected



AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY (88%) of our nation’s middle-income Boomer caregivers find caregiving for a parent or spouse harder than they expected, requiring more emotional strength (57%), patience (55%) and time (52%), according to a new study released by the Bankers Life and Casualty Company Center for a Secure Retirement .

The study, Retirement Care Planning: The Middle-Income Boomer Perspective, which surveyed 505 adult caregivers ages 49 to 67 with an annual household income of between $25,000 and $75,000, also found caregiving to cost more (34%), impact their relationships (33%) and take more physical strength (32%) than previously thought.

Caregiving Experience and Insight

In the U.S., unpaid caregivers provide approximately $450 billion worth of care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. Among middle-income Boomers, four in ten have been a caregiver to a parent or spouse. Among these caregivers, 77% cared for a parent, and nearly one-fourth (23%) cared for a spouse.

Despite the gender stereotypes, male Boomer caregivers are not uncommon. The study cites one-third (32%) of male Boomers classify themselves as adult caregivers, only modestly trailing the percentage of female Boomers who have been adult caregivers (44%).

Boomer Caregiving Duties

When it comes to caregiving tasks, middle-income Boomer caregivers perform a wide range of duties. Their caregiving spanned all four components of caregiving, including heavy involvement in informal caregiving, care process management, personal caregiving and elements of medical caregiving.

Although they primarily relied on doctors and nurses to perform medical caregiving, Boomer caregivers found themselves quite involved in personal caregiving needs, such as:

  • Assistance with eating (79%)
  • Assistance with getting in and out of bed (78%)
  • Assistance with using the toilet (69%)
  • Assistance with dressing (68%)
  • Assistance with bathing (56%)

Most Boomer caregivers report receiving limited help from others with their caregiving duties. Seven in ten (69%) report that their spouse does not provide extensive caregiving support, 78% report their children do not heavily participate, and 68% report that other family members do not directly participate in most caregiving duties. When others did volunteer to help, assistance is most commonly with informal caregiving activities, such as visiting, driving or doing light household chores.

Retirement Care Advice

In reflecting on their own caregiving experience, Boomer caregivers rank the following activities as important when planning for retirement care:

  • Start planning early (95%)
  • Do more planning (94%)
  • Research care options in advance (93%)
  • Talk to your family about your care plan (92%))
  • Get professional advice (84%)


The Bankers Life and Casualty Company Center for a Secure Retirement’s studyRetirement Care Planning: The Middle-Income Boomer Perspective was conducted in April 2013 by the independent research firm The Blackstone Group. The full report can be viewed at

A nationwide sample of 1,299 Americans ages 49 to 67, who have an annual household income of between $25,000 and $75,000, participated in the Internet-based survey. Of the sample, 505 responses were categorized as caregivers. Caregivers are defined as current or former caregivers to a parent, step-parent, in-law or spouse due to a disability, a chronic disease or old age.

The margin of error is 2.72 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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