By Shawndi Purselley, CFP®, CDFA®, Owner and Co-Founder, Wealth Advisor
My children always tease me that if I upset them while they are young, they will not care for me when I am old. It’s a running joke of course, but in all seriousness I’d rather my children NOT care for me when I am old. My grandmother Janet cared for both of her aging parents and her mother-in-law. It was rewarding and valuable to her, but it definitely took a toll on her mental and physical health. Caregiving is not something a lot of families discuss until it becomes a necessity. I would like to encourage you as a woman to consider discussing and building a plan for care before it is needed.
Based on a report published by the International Longevity Center (2011), policymakers should begin to address the disproportionate dementia burden that women bear. In addition, because women are the vast majority of caregivers, they are vulnerable to a greater risk of poverty as well as exposure to an increase in health and financial risks associated with the caregiving itself.
According to AARP Public Policy Institute (2011), the majority of caregivers in a study were women (65%) and the average age of the caregivers was 61.7 years old. This was about the age at which my grandmother began spending a substantial amount of her time caring for her parents and mother-in-law. I can attest that she struggled with constant fatigue, a decline in health as well as anxiety and depression.
There are many challenges I see in my practice with regards to women and their caregiving role. Caregivers may be subject to giving up a job and income to provide the care, putting them at a higher financial risk than others. Women are the vast majority of primary caregivers, and thus subject to the “physical and emotional” wear and tear on a body and mind. Caregiver.org states that caregivers show a higher level of depression with an estimated 40-70% of caregivers having clinical signs and symptoms of depression. It’s no surprise then that women caregivers report even higher levels of depression than male caregivers. Caregivers experience higher levels of stress, anxiety, and frustration than non-caregivers. I have also experienced women in my office suffering from a feeling of a loss of their self-identity.
I have spent some time discussing the burden women face while caregiving, but what about the burden women face with regard to their own care? Women on average live longer than men which means we may need caregiving for a longer period of time. Based on an article in the New York Times in 2016, 58% of women aged 75-84 and 83% of women aged 85 and older were not married. This means that a majority of elder women are possibly living alone and have no permanent companion helping to provide any sort of care. According to Center for Disease Control research, of people over age 80, women are more likely than men to need assistance with activities of daily living. A recent report by AARP.com stated that more than 70% of the residence in Long Term Care facilities are women. The current national cost per day of a private room in a nursing home is over $200 per day (source: longtermcare.acl.gov)
There are many different avenues for making sure that you and your loved ones have adequate care when needed. We all have different needs and circumstances, but together we can work out a plan that specifically addresses caregiving needs. Don’t allow a lack of planning and discussion to burden you!
- AARP Public Policy Institute, 2011
- New York Times, 2016