As the need for long term care increases at a rapid rate throughout the nation, so too does the demand for caregivers. Despite preconceptions about who needs care and who provides it, more and more of those caregivers are seniors, according to a new analysis.

Long Term Care

Baby Boomers are retiring en masse every day and because they face longer life long term careexpectancies, the chances that they will need care or assistance at some point continues to climb. Often discussed is the shortage of caregivers that this country faces, but it seems that seniors are stepping in and filling in the gaps. An analysis by Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, or PHI, a New York-based nonprofit advocating for workers caring for the country’s elderly and disabled, found that the number of direct care workers over the age of 55 is expected to reach 29% by 2018, up from 22% in 2008.

The reason for this increase can be attributed to a number of different factors. First and most simply, more people need care than ever before. The numbers will only continue to increase as aging Baby Boomers enter retirement. Another is that seniors, who have struggled to find employment in the recent economy, are finding it easier to find caregiver jobs because the need is so high. Agencies are beginning to take more risks in hiring caregivers because they are in desperate need of more employees, so these seniors are being given another shot at employment that many companies just won’t give them.

Numbers from various caregiver agencies demonstrate just how high the percentages are and how trends are shifting towards this new model of caregiving, in which the caregiver and the care recipient have much more in common than usual. One-third of Home Instead’s 65,000 caregivers are over the age of 60, while 30% of Visiting Angel’s caregivers are older than 50.

Aging Workforce

A new organization has sprung up called Seniors Helping Seniors, in which, you guessed it, all of the agency’s caregivers are older caregivers. This type of model allows those receiving care to relate better to their caregivers while also giving older adults a good shot at finding a job that they might not have elsewhere.

“I think people are surprised that this workforce is as old as it is,” said Abby Marquand, a researcher at PHI. “There’s often people who have chronic disease themselves who have to muster up the energy to perform these really physically taxing caregiving needs.”

Many of the caregivers refer to their job as extremely rewarding, as is often the case in caregiving. A recent AP article documented one such example: a 74 year old man caring for a 92 year old man with Alzheimer’s. As the caregiver Warren Manchess put it, they’re “just a couple of old geezers”, and it seems to be working well.

“Age can be an advantage,” Manchess said. “We hit it off pretty well. Maybe I didn’t seem to be too much out of the ordinary.”

Planning for Care

Americans are facing longer life expectancies, better medical technology, and changing demands for the type and quality of care they receive, and the industry is responding. Though this trend of seniors caring for seniors is on the rise, the majority of people who receive long term care get it from a family member or other loved one. Unpaid family caregiving makes up most of the care in this country because most people don’t plan ahead for such a situation.

Planning for long term care requires early research and a concrete financial plan of how you will cover the costs should the need for care arise. Most people can’t afford to pay for long term care out of pocket without exhausting their financial portfolio, especially if care is needed for longer than several months or a year. Long term care insurance is one way to help shield your assets from the high cost and ensure you won’t be forced to spend down all your money.

Read more about the different reasons people need long term care or the caregiver shortage that is currently facing our country. If you are interested in learning more about long term care insurance, fill out this form and we will be in touch shortly.