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Long-Term Care Is A Women's Issue

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 or cancer) which may require more extensive long-term care for a greater period of time

A lack of financial preparedness can compound the stress of care-giving 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 guidance 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

V. Action Steps To Take To Prepare For Your Impending And Future Long-Term Care Needs

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 care-giving can have a deleterious and long-lasting effect on professional development and in turn 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 Care-giving

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 Sandwich Generation<sup>5</sup>

The Sandwich Generation5

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 in the 1980's who noted the increasingly common phenomena of multigenerational care-giving.  Couples who put off having children until their mid to late 30s also experience parents who live longer and develop more ongoing health issues.  Increasingly, women are not only taking time off of 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 needs.

Here are some surprising facts about The Sandwich Generation5:

III. The Toll Of Care-giving On Health And Well-being

Unfortunately, the cost of caregiving can go 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

Client Centered
  • 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 care-giving 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 care-giving can be substantial." 3

IV. Women As Recipients Of Long-Term Care

The stress of caregiving has been linked to health problems such as hypertension, 8 which may lead to greater health problems such as 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 10 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.  

Client Centered
  • 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 (75.7%) 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.

V. 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 physical demand and prolonged stress by putting yourself first.  You can be a better caregiver, may reduce your need and expense for medical care, and 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 pass out and become a burden, not a helper 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 in good health. So 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 receive care? Is your home suited to your physical needs?
  • 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, a financial planner can provide an impartial perspective so that all family members are heard and considered.  

Don't delay. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Thank you! Oops!

This material was prepared by John Galego

1 National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 Usage and Attitudes Survey. San Mateo, CA. 2014 

AARP Public Policy Institute. Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update. Washington, D.C. 2015 

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2 Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA,, February 2015. (

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,, February 2015. (

4 Rice University Sociologists Calculate Caregivers Risk of Living in Poverty as cited in Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA,, February 2015. (

5 What Is The Sandwich Generation? October 2015.

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,, February 2015.

7 Reverberations of family illness as cited in Family Caregiver Alliance, “Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” FCA,, February 2015.

8 Spousal Caregiving and Incident Hypertension, April 2012

9 High Blood Pressure Is Even Riskier

10 Long-Term Care - Important Information For Women, 2018.