Baby-boomers face £10k burden to care for elderly parents

Rosie Taylor
Baby boomers are having to fund the cost of care for their parents - E+

Babyboomers are having to pay up to £10,000 a year out of their own pockets to fund the care of their elderly relatives.

The “squeezed middle” in their 50s, 60s and 70s - who are often helping out children and grandchildren as well as elderly parents - are having to dip into their pensions and savings to fund care and essentials.

More than four in ten people caring for an elderly family member spend up to £1,000 of their own money on them each year, while three in ten pay between £1,000 and £10,000, a report found.

The money goes on essential items like food and toiletries which disabled or elderly people are unable to fetch themselves, as well as on care support which has not been paid for by social services or from the assets of the person needing care.

A quarter of 1,000 British carers surveyed for the Tipping Point report, commissioned by health insurer Benenden, said their caring responsibilities meant they had been forced to dip into their savings or pension, while one in 16 said the costs meant they will have to retire later than planned.

The burden of caring is not just affecting low income families: 60 per cent of carers surveyed for the report were in the top three socioeconomic groups in the UK, while three in ten earned at least £40,000 a year.

Baby boomers are having to fund the cost of care for their parents Credit: Rafael Ben-Ari

Across all carers surveyed, one in six said the cost burden of care had left them struggling for money and a third said they expected to have to raid their savings within the next five years.

Around 1.3 million people applied for help funding care in 2015/16 - the latest year figures have been published for - but fewer than half of these were awarded it.

The “tipping point” refers to the point at which the proportion of over-65s in the British population will overtake the proportion of those aged under-15 for the first time.

It is expected to take place in 2020, putting significant pressure on those caught in the middle.

The change has been triggered by an ageing population, caused by improvements to healthcare and lifestyles which have led to longer life expectancies. 

But despite living longer lives, the number of people with multiple chronic health problems has soared by 1 million in a decade to 2.9 million, partly due to soaring obesity rates, as well as people living for longer.

Between 2009/10 and 2016/17, spending by local authorities on adult social services fell by 13.5 per cent per adult in real terms, putting pressure on families to provide care for loved-ones instead.

The report found two thirds of carers spend between 10 and 20 hours a week looking after elderly relatives - but this is not enough to enable them to qualify for Carers’ Allowance, which is only available to people caring for someone for at least 35 hours a week.

Caring demands have led to 16 per cent of carers having to reduce their hours at work, 14 per cent saying they can no longer work as often as they like and 10 per cent frequently having to leave work unexpectedly.

Looking after others also takes an emotional toll, with two in five carers saying they no longer have any time for themselves and a quarter worried they do not have sufficient time for other family members or friends.

Commenting on the report, Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “We are so lucky that millions of people in this country are prepared to care for someone they love, but we also need to be realistic about the impact this can have on them - physically, emotionally and financially. 

“Caring is hard work and over time it can wear the most resilient person down. It's also important to remember that many carers are themselves in their eighties or beyond and have their own health needs to contend with, which they may well be neglecting in favour of those of the person they are supporting.”

She called on the Government to improve social care provision, including allowing carers flexible hours at work and more financial support.