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The Impact of Long-term Care on Women

by Christine Van Meter, M.B.A.


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Most Americans are aware that a new health care crisis is looming just over the horizon. According to US Census projections, by the year 2030 one in five Americans will be a senior citizen. In recent years there has been a veritable avalanche of media coverage regarding long-term care, with the primary emphasis placed on the costs of in-home and nursing home care. Since more than half of Americans will eventually need long-term care, there has been widespread concern about the threat to one's assets and the impoverishment of a non-institutionalized spouse, since Medicare does not cover long-term care for many medical situations.

But an important fact has been lost in much of the discussion of the looming long-term care crisis, and that is who is really at risk. Sadly, the women of America face a two-pronged threat to their health and their wealth from the problem of long-term care.

Women as Care-Providers

Today, many women in America face the challenge of working full- or part-time, raising a family, and at the same time caring for an elderly parent. According to a recent study by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregivers, the overwhelming majority of persons with disabilities lived in their own homes, and received unpaid or informal care from family and friends. The vast majority of the caregivers are women; indeed, the typical care-giver is a 46-year-old woman who has some college, and who spends over 20 hours per week providing care for her mother.

The fact is that the women of America care for our loved ones in their waning years, and the toll is enormous. 60% of female caregivers have to make sacrifices at work to accommodate caregiving, to include working fewer hours, giving up promotions, taking a leave of absence, or even giving up a job. According to a recent MetLife study, women give up a median of $240,000 in lost wages over a lifetime as a result of providing informal long-term care to loved ones. In addition, the process takes a toll on their own bodies, as 44% of female caregivers report high levels of physical and emotional strain as a result of caregiving.

Women at Risk

In addition to giving up so much to act as caregivers for others, women are far more likely than men to need long-term care for themselves. Have you visited a nursing home recently? Who are the nursing home residents that you see? On average, women stay in the nursing home for 30 months.

A recent study by the NY State Medicaid Department found that 80% of nursing home admissions are women, and their average age of admission is age 82. The simple fact is that women outlive men, and are therefore more likely to need long-term care solutions.

Learning About Long-Term Care Solutions

Your financial advisor can show you a number of approaches to funding your long-term care needs, whether they involve home-care or nursing home care. Indeed, most of us want to stay in our own homes for as long as possible. When considering your options to fund your long-term care needs, there are a number of important things to keep in mind, and as always you should consult a financial professional to help you weigh the choices.

Photo credit: Horla Varlan @ Flickr

Van Meter and Van Meter, LLC.
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