July 30, 2018
Understanding the need to plan for long-term care is important for everyone, especially women. 

Although many of us don't want to talk about it, the majority of us will have to confront a long-term care event at some point in our lives. This is especially true for women who comprise the majority of caregivers and recipients of long-term care. 

Why Is This The Case?

Women are more likely to:

  • Be a caregiver to a spouse, partner or other family member/friend
  • Outlive a spouse or partner
  • Succumb to an illness associated with aging (such as dementia and cancer) which require more extensive long-term care for a greater period of time

A Lack of Financial Preparedness Can Compound The Stress Of Caregiving And Managing Health Issues.

Unfortunately, statistics show women are less financially prepared than their male counterparts going into later years, and a Long-Term Care event can greatly exacerbate this fact.

The following highlights facts and figures associated with this dilemma and offers some basic guidelines to help you think about and plan for your future Long-Term Care needs.  

I. Women As Our Nation's Caregivers

II. The Financial Toll Of Caregiving

III. The Toll Of Caregiving On Health And Well-being

IV. Women As Recipients Of Long-Term Care

I. Women As Our Nation's Caregivers

The typical caregiver is a middle-aged daughter.  On average she provides 24 hours of care and works 34 hours per week.  She is more likely to provide intensive levels of care including dressing, toileting, and bathing than her male counterpart.1  

The majority of caregivers actually work full-time (56%) and often they must balance their need for income with the demands of caregiving for an elder as well as their own children, (we will discuss "The Sandwich Generation" below).  They must organize and draw on personal resources in combination with public or private assistance, both of which may be limited.  Unmarried women caregivers may have even fewer options for balancing work and care-giving.2

What does this mean for working women?

The demands of caregiving can have a deleterious and long-lasting effect on professional development and in turn their finances.    One national study on women and caregiving highlighted the conflicting demands of work and eldercare.3 The study found that:

II. The Financial Toll Of Caregiving

Since caregivers are disproportionately women who take more time away from work to care for others, their finances are also disproportionately impacted.  In addition to money spent out-of-pocket on caregiving, time away from work can reduce current income and contributions toward retirement savings.  As the following facts and figures show, reduced work hours and/or fewer years in the workforce may add up to a significant loss in assets:


  • The total estimated loss of wages and Social Security benefits for a female caregiver.3

2.5 & 5

  • Women who become caregivers are 2.5 times more likely to end up in poverty and 5 times more likely to depend on Social Security.4

"The Sandwich Generation"5

In addition to providing care to an adult, women often simultaneously provide care for their children.  The term, "The Sandwich Generation", was coined by Dorothy Miller, a social worker int he 1980's who noted the increasingly common phenomena of multigenerational caregiving.  Couples who put off having children until their mid to late 30's often have parents who live longer and develop more ongoing health issues.  Increasingly, women are not only taking time off work, but time away from parenting their own children; and as we will discuss below, postponing their own health needs.  

As you would expect, this predisposes caregivers to health problems of their own as a result of the physical and emotional stress of caregiving and failing to attend to their own health needs.

Here are some surprising facts about The Sandwich Generation5:


  • The average age range of Sandwich Generation Member


  • The Average number of years spent outside the workforce, raising children and caring for an older relative or friend.2


  • Those with incomes of $100,000 or above are more likely to be sandwiched than those who earn less.

III. The Toll Of Caregiving On Health And Well-Being

Unfortunately, the cost of caregiving can extend beyond finances and one's career.  It is well documented that caregiving can take a toll on a caregivers health. In fact, the more time spent on caregiving, the greater the likelihood of ill effects.2

  • Women who spend 9 hours or more caring for a spouse double their risk of coronary heart disease. 6
  • Middle-aged and older women who provided care for an ill or disabled spouse were almost 6 times as likely to suffer depressive or anxious symptoms as were those who had no caregiving responsibilities. 7
  • Women who cared for parents were twice as likely to suffer from depressive or anxious symptoms as noncaregivers.7

"Studies find that men respond to caregiving responsibilities in a fundamentally different way. Women tend to stay home to provide time-consuming care to one or more ill or disabled friends or family members, while men respond to loved one's needs for support by delaying retirement, in part to shoulder the financial burden associated with long-term care.  The impact of the women's intensive caregiving can be substantial."3

IV. Women As Recipients Of Long-Term Care

The stress of caregiving, has been linked to health problems such as hypertension8, which may lead to an increased risk of stroke or dementia.9 Longevity in women is also associated with the onset of dementia.  More than two-thirds of Americans age 85 or older, and eight out of ten centenarians, are women.  Longevity and stress of caregiving are just a few factors that play into women's need for long-term care over a greater period of time.

  • Women spend twice as many years in a disabled state (as men) at the end of their lives: 2.8 years if they live past 65, and 3.0 years if they live past 80.10
  • More than 70 percent of nursing home residents are women. Their average age at admission is 80.
  • Over three-fourths of residents in assisted living communities are women. Their average age at admission is 85.7.
  • Almost two-thirds of formal (paid) home care users and informal (unpaid) care recipients are women.
  • Among people age 75 or older, women are 60 percent more likely than men to need help with one or more activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing or getting around their home.

Action Steps You Can Take To Address Your Potential Long-Term Care Needs

As a caregiver, your health and well-being may be at risk, but you can take steps to minimize the effects of prolonged physical demand and stress by putting yourself first.  You will be a better caregiver, may reduce your need and expense for medical care, and may potentially reduce the likelihood or extent of requiring caregiving from your loved ones.

Put The Oxygen Mask On Yourself First

If you find it hard to make time for your well-being, consider the metaphor of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first.  At the start of a flight, the attendant instructs all passengers to place the oxygen mask over their face before assisting others.  Why? Because without enough oxygen due to loss of cabin pressure, you may lose consciousness and become a burden, not a help to others.  

Apply this same principle to your daily life.  You are best equipped to help others, when you are rested, eat well, exercise, and are in good health.  It is essential that you make time for your medical, physical, and emotional needs, especially when caring for others.

Anticipate Your Future

  • What is the likelihood that you will be a caregiver?
  • What support systems are in place or can you establish for yourself or others?
  • If you are an only child, or the only sibling living close to your parents, is there a plan in place if your mother or father need care?

Consider Whether You Might Need Care Someday

  • Will you want to remain in your home as long as possible and receiver care? Is your home suited to your physical needs and/or do you have a budget to make modifications?
  • If you prefer to reside in assisted living or high-level nursing care, is the facility near family?
  • If something were to suddenly happen, would you prefer to remain close to your community to maintain friendships and the life you have built? Have you made these wishes clear to your loved ones?

Plan For Long-Term Care As A Family

  • Have an open discussion with your spouse, your siblings, your parents, and your in-laws.
  • Discuss the importance of establishing a long-term care plan, and encourage ongoing discussions as wishes and needs may change.

How Can We Help?

As your advisor, we may be able to shed light on the various ways in which you can establish a plan for long-term care.  Your physical, emotional, and financial health are inextricably linked. By discussing various planning tools such as insurance and estate planning, we can help you create a plan for the future and put you in a position to make informed decisions. As you contemplate and discuss your plans for long-term care, aging, and retirement, we welcome the opportunity to provide an impartial perspective so that all family members are heard and considered.

Whether you are an existing client, or simply curious about steps you can take to shore-up your Long-Term Care Plan, feel free to reach out to discuss your unique circumstances.

Schedule An Appointment Today


Article prepared by John Galego

1 National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, Caring.com Usage and Attitudes Survey. San Mateo, CA. 2014,  AARP Public Policy Institute. Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update. Washington, D.C. 2015  LS-LTC-13002-C ST 09/15

2 Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA, https://www.caregiver.org/print/240, February 2015. (https://www.caregiver.org/women-and-caregiving-facts-and-figures)

3 The MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents, as cited in Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA, https://www.caregiver.org/print/240, February 2015. (https://www.caregiver.org/women-and-caregiving-facts-and-figures)http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/mmi-caregiving-costs-working-caregivers.pdf

4 Rice University Sociologists Calculate Caregivers Risk of Living in Poverty as cited in Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA, https://www.caregiver.org/print/240, February 2015. (https://www.caregiver.org/women-and-caregiving-facts-and-figures)

5 What Is The Sandwich Generation? October 2015. https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/10-05-15-what-is-the-sandwich-generation/

6 Caregiving and risk of coronary heart disease in U.S. women: A prospective study.  As cited in Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA, https://www.caregiver.org/print/240, February 2015.

7 Reverberations of family illness as cited in Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA, https://www.caregiver.org/print/240, February 2015.

8 Spousal Caregiving and Incident Hypertension, April 2012 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3836043/

9 High Blood Pressure Is Even Riskier https://mindyourrisks.nih.gov/