New report shows hidden costs of caring

Simple everyday pleasures such as coffee with friends are increasingly growing out of reach for seniors struggling with the growing costs of caring for a person with a disability, new research shows.

Their budgets are increasingly being taken up with necessities such as food, housing and health-related expenses, according to the report Meeting hidden costs of care in the home: Impacts of the presence of disability on expenditure patterns of older Australian households, commissioned by National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre.

Researchers from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra examined data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and found that many of the costs of caring were not only hidden but also increased with age.
“Older people, the disabled and those who care for them are the hidden and too often forgotten members of our society,” Michael O’Neill said.

“They are making sacrifices just to put food on the table, pay for the roof over their head and cover their increasing medical and care needs.

“Their lives will end up being a struggle for survival with little to look forward to without the everyday pleasures that most of us take for granted,” he said.

“And what happens to them if their spouse or loved one also needs care?”

The report showed that in 2011, more than 560,000 seniors with severe or profound disabilities needed assistance with self-care, mobility or communication to live at home.

Nearly two million Australian households have at least one person aged 65 years or over and nearly three out of every five of these households have at least one person aged 65 years or over with a disability restricting their everyday activities.

Among couple and single-parent households, those with seniors who needed help with basic care spent more than $100 per person per week less than households without seniors needing assistance.

Couple families who had a member with a disability spent about 26% of their total consumption on food, about 3.5% more than families without members with a severe or profound disability.

And no matter the income level of older couple households, having a family member with severe or profound disability meant they spent more on necessities such as food and health items and services and less on recreational activities – which were classed as luxuries.

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