Lead author D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto of the University of California, Los Angeles, said more than 300,000 grandparents in the state have primary responsibility for their grandchildren, and of this group, almost 65,000 are age 65 and older. More than 20,000 care for their grandkids without any extended family assistance at home, the researchers found.
After calculating the true cost of living in every California county, the researchers found nearly half of custodial grandparents age 65 and older in California did not have enough income to cover the most basic needs of the grandchildren placed in their care.
"California's high cost of living turns the loving act of caring for a grandchild into a desperate financial risk," Padilla-Frausto said in a statement. "And older grandparents, many on fixed incomes and with limited mobility, are often the least able to advocate for, and access, public assistance."
Public programs that might provide benefits that could help grandparents cope, such as the state foster-care program, are often difficult to access or off-limits altogether for family caregivers, Padilla-Frausto said.
Many older adults in California are ineligible for public programs such as Medi-Cal, housing subsidies and food benefits because they have incomes that are above, often just slightly, the federal poverty level. Yet this definition -- $18,530 for a family of three and $14,710 for a family of two in 2011 -- is considered by many experts to be inadequate, the researchers said.