Caregiving Introduces Us to a Love We Didn’t Know Was Possible.
"To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors." - Tia Walker
Over the past five years, I've seen a marked change in the number of folks who come to MEA in the midst of a caregiving crisis, whether it relates to parents, siblings, a spouse, friends, or kids. Some of this is related to Covid, but much of it has to do with an aging population. The graph below shows how much the U.S. has moved from a young population to one with almost perfect parity amongst every five-year age cohort from 0-74 years old.
Half of today’s 65-year-olds will need paid long-term care services before they die. By 2030, one in four Americans will be age 65 or older. The fastest growing group will be those over age 85; this group is expected to grow from 6.5 million to 11.8 million by 2035 and 19 million by 2060. Making matters more complicated, we have fewer siblings than in past generations and tighter immigration policies, which limits some of the foreign care workers we may have relied on in the past.
Adding to these challenges, the average American family spends more than ¼ of their annual income on caregiving activities. That’s the out-of-pocket costs and doesn’t include all the hours invested. Unfortunately, only 29 percent of older Americans have planned with their families how they want to be cared for as they age, and only 12 percent have purchased private long-term care insurance.
Amidst these dire statistics, might there be a silver lining? If we reframe our responsibilities, caregiving can become our individual (and collective) opportunity to bring more compassion and empathy into our world. Caregiving is one of the most incredible acts of love there is. I’m reminded of the Rabindranath Tagore quote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Caring for someone, especially a parent, is an inspiring example of our karmic responsibilities to each other. It isn’t easy. It requires presence and patience, but more than anything else, it requires love.
And the more love we give, the more love we bring into our lives and the world around us.