In the United States, women account for about 61% of all home health agency users. Women receive more Long-Term Care Insurance benefits than men. However, more men are taking better care of themselves, resulting in greater risk for long-term care. Caregivers say there are gender differences in caring for them.
In developed and developing nations, population longevity and aging are quickly increasing. The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over is growing substantially compared to younger demographics. This "silver tsunami" raises concerns about the number of people needing long-term health care in the coming decades.
Gender, aging, and long-term care have been connected. Believe it or not, men are different than women. There are health differences and personality differences that impact risk and preferences. The differences also can affect how caregivers and long-term care facilities interact with them.
Women More Likely to Try to Provide Care for Spouse
Research has shown that women are more committed to caring for a spouse than men. Caregiving continues to be thought of as a "women's issue," and health problems in men have tended to be more fatal. Women more often become frail and disabled.
However, more men are taking better care of themselves than men in previous generations. More men require long-term health care than ever before, and women, their spouses, are often unable to provide the quality care they need.
Women were shown in research to have a 40% higher likelihood of living in a long-term care facility than men. This disparity has been linked to women's longer life expectancies and more frequent widowhood. On the other hand, men were more likely to say that they would prefer to get care from family members at their house or at their relatives' homes.
Family Caregivers Face Health Issues – No Matter Their Age
The problem is the older you become, the less likely you can provide quality care for a spouse, regardless of gender. Being a caregiver is very demanding and can adversely affect the caregiver's health, especially if they are over age 40.
Adult children are often over 40 when they become thrust into becoming an informal, unpaid caregivers for an older parent. According to research from the Family Caregiver Alliance, the caregiver is usually a daughter or daughter-in-law, as women make up 60% of all family caregivers in the U.S. Many times, they are still employed and have children of their own. This "sandwich generation" cannot maintain the stress of being everything to everyone.
The AP‑NORC Center's Long‑Term Care Poll in 2016 showed that 77% of those polled would like to receive long-term care in the comfort of their own home, and 67% would prefer that their loved ones get care in a similar environment.
While men are now living longer compared to previous generations, long-term care still remains a female issue. Consumer health advocates remark that women make more Long-Term Care Insurance claims than males does not surprise them. Advocates claim that because women often live longer than men, they typically provide long-term health care for their husbands initially, reducing the need for making a claim on LTC Insurance right away.
The most recent claim’s analysis by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance was released in 2019. It shows how more Long-Term Care Insurance claims are from women.
Yet the quality of that care remains questionable, and the consequences on the female caregiver's health remains a concern.
Professional Care Usually Provides Better Quality of Life
This means professional care must be found to provide quality care services, ideally in the care recipient's home, where they generally feel the most comfortable.
There are cost considerations that families must consider. While many people have Long-Term Care Insurance, most people do not have coverage when they need care. Those with LTC Insurance have the necessary funds to provide their choice of care. Those without will depend on their income and assets to pay for care.
All types of long-term care services have seen cost increases in recent years. Recently these costs have exploded due to several factors, including inflation, increased demand for services, and higher labor costs. Cost can differ demanding on location and the type of services an individual requires.
Is Caring for a Man Easier Than a Woman?
Some professional caregivers say that caring for a man is easier than caring for a woman, but according to Barbie Kolb, who operates Amada Senior Care based in Springfield, MO, men can be difficult at the start.
Men are easier to care for because they know what they need and are vocal about it. They don't seem to be as particular about how things are done as long as they are done. Initially, they can be more difficult because they have often been more independent and don't want to depend on someone for things they have always done for themselves.
Kolb says that once you break that barrier and develop a relationship with them, they are very grateful for the care and the ability to remain in their homes with as much independence as possible.
It is different for women who are receiving care in their homes. They usually have been in control over how things are done in their home. This loss of control can be difficult for them.
Women are much more opinionated about how things are done and less likely to speak up if they want something done differently than the way the caregiver is doing it.
Kolb says this is understandable as most women were also homemakers and proud of how they ran their households. Women are usually outspoken about the care they are receiving from caregivers.
Women are more likely to complain to friends and family before letting the caregiver or the office know things are not being done according to their expectations.
Trust and Open Communication
Kolb says that professional caregivers build trust and open communication to avoid misunderstandings about care expectations. Caregivers will usually ask for suggestions on cooking or cleaning.
Caregivers need to show respect and convey an awareness that the caregiver understands that this is their home, and they want to keep up the same standard they are used to.
She says it is vital for caregivers to find commonalities between them and the care recipient to maintain open communication. What happens when the caregiver-care recipient relationship is not one-on-one, but the caregiver is caring for a couple? Is it more challenging for a caregiver to care for a couple?
Caregivers enjoy taking care of couples, according to Kolb. She says that couples will share wonderful stories and memories of their lives together. Caregivers will often see the love that they have shared for so many years. Kolb says it is rewarding to help couples stay together in their home.
However, there can be challenges that usually involve family dynamics. Kolb says that sometimes one spouse will try to instruct a caregiver on the best care plan for the other spouse. Professional caregivers will keep their care plans separate because of the specific needs of each spouse.
She recalled one couple they cared for in the past with a very dominant male. He was very vocal about his opinion that he, the man of the house, would tell his spouse how everything would be done and keep her in her place.
One morning, his wife wanted bacon and biscuits for breakfast. When her husband got up, he wanted cereal and toast and said his wife would be having the same. She would not disagree. Our caregiver was able to explain to him that she had already told her what she wanted, and she was going to continue with that. The spouse didn't want to say anything to upset her husband but smiled and later told the caregiver that it didn't matter to her, but she sure enjoyed having what she wanted for breakfast.
When a Spouse Dies
Unfortunately, when one spouse passes away, caring for the surviving spouse includes listening. Kolb says listening helps the surviving spouse deal with the grief.
The most important thing we can do as caregivers is to be a good listener. You must let them grieve and talk about their feelings as they go through the grieving process. We talk with them about their spouse in a positive way.
She says that over time a good caregiver will point out things the care recipient can still do and enjoy.
Minimizing the change during this difficult time in their lives is crucial. Most couples express that they want the surviving spouse to remain in the home with all of the memories they have made. If there are children involved, it's often essential to the surviving spouse that they still have that place for them to visit.
Socialization is Key
On occasion, Kolb says, it might be best for the care recipient to move to a community if they are becoming isolated and not socializing appropriately. However, families with multiple children each have their own opinion about what is best for mom or dad. Trying to balance the family's wishes, the care recipient's wishes, and what the professional caregivers feel is best can be challenging.
The goal is to allow the care recipient to live the rest of their life in a place of their choosing, based on their specific needs. Those needs change as aging and health problems progress.
Keeping the care recipient happy about life and where they live is crucial once one spouse dies. For an older man, it can be a matter of life or death. Health care professionals call this the "widowhood effect."
Sociologists at Harvard University found that men were 22% more likely than women to pass away within a year of a spouse's passing.
Quality care is vital when a couple has been together, cared for in their one, and one passes. An impaired immune system is already more common in grieving older adults. They become much more vulnerable to infectious diseases as a result. Additionally, it has been discovered that those who are widowed, or widowers show higher cognitive impairment than those who have not lost a spouse.
Quality caregivers will engage the care recipient and involve the family to maintain a better quality of life for the surviving spouse. It starts with getting quality care at the start. Quality care leads to a better quality of life even if someone is experiencing declining health and mobility problems due to aging and chronic illnesses.
Quality Care = Quality of Life
Accessing quality care services, be it in-home care or an assisted living facility, will help older adults maintain a better quality of life. People without an advance plan force their families into a crisis, and quality care is often not provided immediately. Individuals with Long-Term Care Insurance will have guaranteed tax-free funds to pay for quality services, including care at home.
If you have older parents, you may be experiencing their health declines. Planning for your future should happen before retirement. Long-Term Care Insurance, if appropriate, is something that should be part of retirement planning. Most people get coverage in their 40s or 50s since premiums are much lower and better health allows for more options.
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About the Author
Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.
Contributor since October 31st, 2017
The cost of long-term health care is rapidly increasing. Medical science allows us to live longer, but that also increases the need for help with daily living activities or supervision due to dementia.
Medicare and health insurance pay little or nothing toward the cost of long-term health care. The financial repercussions may alter your way of life and legacy. It's important to consider how the costs and burdens of aging will affect your family.
Family caregivers are ill-equipped and unprepared for the job as your future caregiver. You probably don't want to make your adult children and their families bear the burden of being your future caregiver. Long-Term Care Insurance is an affordable solution for many families.
Professional care is expensive, be it in-home care or in a long-term care facility. Therefore being prepared is vital to any retirement plan. Most people get coverage in their 50s to take advantage of lower costs and more options.
Locate a Reliable and Experienced LTC Expert
Make sure to get the proper kind of professional assistance. A knowledgeable Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can assist you in navigating the many options from all the top insurance companies. Premiums vary over 100% between insurance companies, and each company has its own underwriting rules.
A general insurance agent or financial advisor lacks this expertise.
Have Questions About Long-Term Care Planning?
You probably have questions about long-term health care planning, and LTC NEWS provides the answers for many of the most asked questions here - Frequently Asked Questions. Find all the tools and resources that are available on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning.
The cost of long-term health care is exploding. This calculator is an outstanding tool whether you are helping someone find care today or you are planning for yourself for the decades ahead.
Find the current and future cost of long-term health care where you live - LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator.
Loved Ones Need Help Now?
Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.
If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea.
If your parent or parents need help, be sure to get them quality care. LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.
Start by reading our four guides -
The Benefits of Today's Reverse Mortgages
Some people have a large portion of their savings in their homes. With the help of reverse mortgages, you can find ways to pay for quality in-home care, pay for LTC Insurance, and even assist with cash flow during retirement.
Yes, today's reverse mortgages may be the perfect way to pay for a Long-Term Care Insurance policy or even cover the cost of in-home care if you or a loved one is currently in need.
Asking an expert with your questions will help you learn more. Mike Banner, a columnist for LTC NEWS and the host of the television program "62 Who Knew," will respond to your inquiries about long-term care, reverse mortgages, aging, and health.
- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.
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