When long-term care (LTC) planning experts at Genworth Financial organized a recent LTC impact survey, they wanted to find a new way to measure the effects of care needs on the care recipients and the caregivers.
They threw in a question about the effects of LTC care needs on spending on basics — like groceries.
They found that caregivers reported spending an average of $8,080 per year on out-of-pocket expenses, and that 58 percent reported that they had to cut spending on discretionary items, such as buying clothes, cars and restaurant meals, because of caregiving responsibilities.
Thirty-two percent of the care recipients cut spending on a category that most middle-income and upper-income people in the United States are accustomed to thinking a little about: Groceries.
The caregivers were in a somewhat better percentage when it came to eating, but 20 percent of them told Genworth caregiving responsibilities cut their grocery spending.
Pam Nelson, a Genworth vice president, said the company was just trying to get more information about the effects of LTC needs on quality of life, not really trying to carve out food costs as a separate topic.
“We noticed that there wasn’t a lot of information out there when it comes to caregiving,” Nelson said.
In the United States today, food costs make up a modest portion of nursing home care costs and only a small part of home care costs, Nelson said.
Consumers are much more likely to complain about LTC needs leading to cuts in spending on cell phones and Internet services than in grocery spending, Nelson said.
But the fact that the topic came up at all raised a question: Could the cost of food be a major source of LTC inflation that “comes out of nowhere” 10 or 20 years from now?
In 2008, before the collapse of a debt bubble led to a series of crises throughout the world that continues to this day, it looked as if the big economic story of the year was going to be the effects of growing international incomes and bad harvests on food prices. Grocery prices were soaring, even in the United States.