Caregiving and its impact on women

Health, careers, finances and relationships can all be affected by being a caregiver.

As we age, we are likely to need help. Depending on available resources, we might need to rely on our family and friends. In fact, 65 percent of older adults with long-term care needs exclusively rely on family and friends for assistance according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving. Women provide most of the caregiving and are more likely to experience negative effects on their health, finances, employment and relationships. The reports states:

  • 66 percent of caregivers are women. Men also provide care, but women may spend as much as 50 percent or more time caregiving than men.
  • The average female caregiver is 49 years old and works outside the home. An estimated 20 percent of working women who are caring for their parents also provide financial support to them.
  • Women who care for family members are 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty as compared to non-caregivers.
  • Caregiving impacts wages, retirement, promotions and ability to remain employed. The monetary cost to women due to lost wages and Social Security benefits is $324,044.
  • 20 percent of female caregivers reported chronic stress, nearly two times greater than non-caregivers and male caregivers.
  • Female caregivers who spend 9 or more hours a week providing care for a spouse have double the risk for coronary heart disease.
  • 54 percent of female caregivers have one or more chronic health conditions compared to 41 percent of non-caregiving women.
  • 52 percent of lower-income women spend at least 20 hours a week providing care.
  • Minority women may have greater challenges accessing paid sources for caregiving. 30.7 percent of African American and 40.8 percent of Hispanic single women over 65 years of age live in poverty.

The report concludes by saying that support groups, counseling, respite care and other services have positive direct effects on a caregiver’s health behaviors. Female caregivers are twice as likely to see the benefits of talking to someone as compared to their male counterparts. There is no doubt caregiving is a difficult job and both women and men need support to do it well.

Michigan State University Extension provides all caregivers the opportunity to talk to other caregivers in the Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshop. This workshop introduces participants to tools to reduce stress, make difficult decisions, communicate more effectively in challenging situations and prevent caregiver burnout. The six-week class not only teaches tools to better control your life as a caregiver but also connects you with others who are experiencing similar caregiving challenges. To find a Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshop near you, contact your local MSU Extension county office.

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