Over 65 million people provide care for an elderly family member on a routine basis. But if you happen to be a woman, the chances of that responsibility falling to you are almost twice as likely. One study estimates 66 percent of caregivers are females over the age of 50; whereas, only 34 percent of males over the age of 50 are helping to care for an elderly parent. There are several factors that will impact your life when caring for an elderly parent and there are also ways to plan for this situation.
The Impact of Caring for a Loved One
The Metlife Study of the Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers found that, in total, the cost impact of caregiving on the individual female caregiver in terms of lost wages is $142,693, and accounting for lost wages and Social Security benefits, the amount jumps to $324,044. This is over $40,000 more of an impact in lost wages to women as compared to their male caregiving counterparts. For men, the loss in wages is $89,107 and that amount goes up to $283,716 accounting for lost wages and Social Security Benefits. The financial disparity comes into play because many women will take family leave, move to part-time work, pass up promotion, or retire early based on their obligation to care for an elderly parent.
While men do experience a financial toll as well, it may be less due to the fact that many men will work longer to financially support a caregiver for an elderly parent rather than quitting work or retiring early to take on the caregiving role themselves.
Although men also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than male caregivers.
Another study shows, more intense caregiver situations tend to have a greater impact on the odds of retiring. Women who provide assistance to multiple family members have 50 percent higher odds of retiring than women of the same age who are not caregivers. Caregiving reduces paid work hours for middle aged women by about 41 percent.
Physical & Emotional Impact
The average age of a woman caregiver is mid-to-late 40s, and the physical strain of taking care of an elderly parent can be grueling. Many times, these women are also still caring for minor children of their own. Of course, the basic necessities of cooking, cleaning, and making sure bills get paid needs to be accomplished, but there is literally physically heavy lifting involved with having to bathe and assist their loved one getting in and out of bed. Additionally, caregivers may also experience inadequate time for sleep, self-care, and other health related activities, which can lead to a decline in overall health and well-being for the caregiver.
But there is more than just the physical work involved—taking care of an aging parent can take quite an emotional toll as well. According to the American Psychological Association, family caregivers report higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, with between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers having clinically significant symptoms of depression, and up to one-half of those caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression.
Time Management Impact
Because women tend to spend more time taking care of an elderly parent than their male counterparts, and many of these women have children that need care as well, the time management factor comes into play. For women who are in their mid-to-late 40s, this can be an exceptionally busy time in life with juggling a career, taking care of school-aged children, keeping up with all of their after-school activities and sports, adding an elderly parent into that schedule can prove to be challenging. According to Pew Research, 1 out of every 8 Americans over 40 is both raising a child and caring for an elderly parent.
How to Plan Ahead for the Financial and Emotional Burden of Caring for a Loved One
Knowing that this is a situation that could possibly affect you, there is planning that can be done to help lessen the impact financially:
- Meet with your financial planner to map out a plan early on
- Consider investing in a return of premium term life insurance policy. Once the term is up, you will get a lump sum return of the premium that you paid in over the years. This can act as a sort of forced-savings—and may come in handy should you need the extra money for a situation like this.
- Consider investing in a Roth IRA. This type of IRA can give you tax-free growth, so this can help to minimize your tax burden once you start taking qualified money out of it at the age of retirement.
- Ease the emotional stress by being informed. There are several resources, such as the AARP Help for First-Time Caregivers Guide, to help you through the process, even if you are not able to hire a professional caregiver.
- Even though you may be stained for time, make sure to take time for yourself—both emotionally and physically. Find something that is relaxing to you, such as exercising, reading, or getting a massage.
- Don’t try to do everything on your own. Reach out to other family members to see if they can help. Prioritize what needs to be done and allow the items that aren’t pressing to wait.
The information presented is not intended as financial advice, and you are encouraged to seek such advice from your financial advisor. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.
Catherine Gareri, a Senior Associate with Finivi, works primarily with women going through a period of transition in their lives, or who are facing a new life challenge that may require difficult financial and emotional decisions to be made or at least considered, including caring for a loved one. If you need guidance navigating through a difficult life transition, or simply want help with your pre- or post-retirement planning needs, we can help. You can call (800)530-6635 for a complimentary consultation or click here to schedule online.