Shouldering the Burden of Elder Care

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All parents know about sacrifices, but now, their children are learning about them as well.

Shelley Tillman cares full-time for her mother, who suffers from a brain tumor.

"Every morning, I start her with a feeding, she has to be changed, and then she gets turned every few hours," 28-year-old Tillman said. "If you had asked me two years ago [if] I'd be doing this — that I'd even be able to do this — I'd have said say no."

Tillman spends nearly $3,000 each month on expenses. She works part-time, and almost her entire paycheck goes to the home care nurse who takes care of Tillman's mom while Tillman's at the office.

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"It is not really a sacrifice. I just love her," Tillman sobbed, "and I want to be there for her, and I don't ever want her to feel like she is alone."

A study from the National Association of Caregivers says the whopping costs of home care average more than $5,500 a year. That's $400 more than the average household spends on health care and entertainment combined.

The bulk of those funds are spent on just the basics: food, transportation and medical care and supplies.

When the aging relative lives in another city, the costs run even higher. On average, long-distance caregivers spend nearly $9,000 a year.

"This is the first time that research has been done on this issue — of the financial out-of-pocket costs of caregiving," said Gail Gibson-Hunt of the National Association of Caregivers. "And we think it's important, because we want Congress to actually do something about it."

Over the last five years, Congress has tried several times to give tax breaks to family caregivers, but none of the measures has passed.

Elder care is an issue that affects more and more Americans each year. An estimated 34 million Americans provide some care for a family member, age 50 or older. And as the baby boomers begin to retire, that number is going to climb even higher.

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