It is estimated that 65% of older persons with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance. An additional 30% will supplement family care with assistance from paid providers. In addition, 50% of the elderly who have long-term care needs but no family available to care for them are in nursing homes, while only 7% who have a family caregiver are in institutional settings.
The value of the informal care that women provide ranges from $148 billion to $188 billion annually. Informal care to spouses, parents, parents-in-law, friends and neighbours is majorly provided by women as they juggle many roles at the same time. Women are the major providers of long-term care in many places across the globe, but they also have long-term care needs of their own. Older women with aging loved ones bear the brunt as they work to meet their needs which could be challenging if their income is reduced because they need to work less hours in order to take care of their spouse or family member living with them. This could also result from a dual income home reduced to a single income in the case of a partner who needs care and can no longer work due to their condition.
While the costs of providing care are high, the demands on caregivers’ time are also substantial. Estimates indicate that some 20 percent of all female workers in the United States are family caregivers. The toll that caregiving takes is not just financial. Higher levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges are common among women who care for an older relative or friend.
According to research by National Alliance for Caregiving & University of Pittsburgh Institute on Aging, one in five female caregivers age 18 to 39 said that stress was nearly always present in their lives; nearly twice as many as those who were not caregivers and for male caregivers. Twenty-nine percent of Australian caregivers identified themselves as the primary caregiver, defined as the person providing the most assistance, and women were about twice as likely to fill this role (5% women, compared to 2% for men).
An analysis by Bowling Green State University found that female and adult-child caregivers generally reported having more negative experiences than male and spouse caregivers, with wife caregivers least likely to report positive experiences. The Care recipient’s problem behaviour was the most important risk factor for wife caregivers having a negative experience, whereas positive experience was correlated with reciprocal help from care recipients, suggesting that caregivers need recognition and care from their care recipients.
According to a study on informal caregivers in New York City, the majority of participants in the study were women and shared one of the highest unmet needs was respite care. By making conscious efforts to ease the burden on women caregivers, their caregiving journey can improve. We would like to take this opportunity on International Women’s Day to highlight some of the challenges women go through. We salute all the women caregivers for all they do and also those who work to achieve the best quality of life and care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions. Happy International Women’s Day!