'Daughter Care' - The New Health Care Issue
There’s a lot of talk about healthcare these days, but one rarely discussed area of healthcare was pushed into the spotlight this month after a report released by the Journal of the American Medical Association - Neurology: It’s knows as “Daughter Care.”
Let’s take a look at a few numbers from the report:
- The number of people 65+ with dementia is expected to rise to 20% by 2030 (up from 13% in 2010). That’s an estimated 8.4 million people.
- More than 80% of caregiving comes from unpaid sources, specifically the family.
- The average person with dementia requires 171 hours of care per month, more than 100 hours more care per month than those without dementia.
- Women provide 2/3 of all elder care. Wives are more likely to care for husbands and women are 28% more likely to care for aging parents than sons.
Welcome to Daughter Care, a term coined by the report’s authors, which concluded “The best long-term insurance in our country is the conscientious daughter.”
That insurance comes at considerable cost. According to researchers, the burden of caregiving demands falls disproportionately on working-age women. According to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association, overall (men and women) provided and estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at more than $220 billion. To put that in perspective, that’s about half of the net value of Wal-Mart sales in 2012. And 65% of that care was provided by women.
As the number of seniors with dementia grows, there will be an increasing toll on caregivers, especially those in the workforce. According to a Caring.com survey, some 75% of those surveyed said caregiving has had a negative impact on their work. Sixty percent having had to make changes to their schedules; 31% frequently arrive late or leave early. More than 50% say they’d missed one or more weeks of work because caregiving.
The effect on working women
That negative impact is felt especially hard by women, who lose more, on average, in wages than their male counterparts. According to a 2011 report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, women who leave the labor force early and/or reduce the hours they work because of caregiving responsibilities lose about $142,693 in wages. Men see a loss of about $89,107 in wages.
Some 17% of women in the US said they felt they had been penalized at work because of their caring role and 10% lost job benefits.
“Women are disproportionately at risk for lowering or exiting their career trajectory owing to caregiving demands,” researchers noted in the JAMA report. “While gender parity in childcare is modestly growing, gender parity in dementia care is unlikely to occur soon. Hard-fought gains toward equality in the workplace for women are at risk.”
The Alzheimer’s Association report said that employed women who are caregivers are seven times more likely than men to cut down from full-time to part-time employment because of caregiving duties. They are more likely than men to take a leave of absence from work, to lose employment benefits, or to be forced to quit working altogether. In addition to salary loss, women may see an impact on their retirement plans, and their health benefits. They may have less free time and suffer from greater stress. According to the New York Times, women are more likely than men to say that caregiving is physically difficult, has strained their marriages, caused them to lose contact with friends, and become isolated.
In addition, caregiving can take a significant physical toll: Caregivers may experience emotional distress, depression, anxiety, or social isolation. Some are in poor physical health, with high levels of stress, and higher rates of chronic disease than their peers. The report in JAMA suggests that caregiver burnout can lead to more frequent hospitalization for the senior or earlier placement in long-term care.
More work needs to be done
While the Family Medical Leave Act remains in place, not everyone’s employer qualifies – in fact, according to Bloomberg, only 12 percent of employees have access to paid family leave, and it may not extend to elder care.
Calling elder care the “next frontier in deluxe benefits for highly skilled, highly sought-after workers,” Bloomberg noted that as the hiring market has gotten more competitive, elder care benefits may be one more perk companies can use to attract top talent. It’s especially important as Baby Boomers retire and their millennial children are faced with caring for them. Both Bloomberg and the JAMA report researchers cited Deloitte, which offers its employees 16 weeks of leave to care for a family member – even an elderly parent.
Researchers wrote in the JAMA report that such benefits pay dividends to the company, its employees, and taxpayers:
“Employer-sponsored paid leave for elder care offers unique value to women workers through providing a circumscribed period of adjustment to the new role enabling caregivers to develop and implement plans of care and thus mitigating the risk of workplace exit.
“Well-timed paid leave can be even more effective if combined with existing home-based interventions led by occupational therapists and “handymen” to preserve senior citizens’ capacity to perform activities of daily living and reduce the hours spent caregiving, which translates into further financial savings.”
No one really knows why women are more predisposed to be caregivers; it could be, as one study suggested, that each gender displays their love for family members in different ways. Whatever the reason, researchers believe that changes need to be made to divide the burden of caregiving more equally.
What you can do
Male or female, caregiving can take its toll. Caregiving can be a 24/7 role that’s physically and emotionally draining. We’ve said it before, but we can’t say it enough: It’s important to take care of the caregiver! Here are 6 ways to do that:
- Accept help when it’s offered. Or ask others to help if they don’t offer.
- Take care of your physical needs. Whether exercising, eating well or getting enough sleep, your health is important. Make sure to have regular physicals and stay up-to-date on immunizations and screenings.
- Seek counseling if the stress becomes too much.
- Be realistic about how much you can handle.
- Don’t isolate yourself from others. Try to remain active in your social circle and spend time with family and friends.
- Throw away the guilt over taking a break. You need an occasional break, whether it’s just alone time, a vacation or you need to take a trip for work. Enlist the aid of another family member or family friend. If no one is available, consider respite care at a local facility with trained professionals. Respite care gives you a break while eliminating the worry of whether your loved one is being taken care of. We offer respite care at our centers. It’s not only a safe and worry-free way to take a break from caregiving; a short respite stay is an excellent way to experience our communities and all they have to offer for when assisted living becomes a consideration.
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The Courville Communities is working to connect with companies to help them understand the challenges of caregiving, Medicare, respite care, and more. By providing education and making them aware of the options, businesses can be better prepared when an employee faces a crisis, and better able to making arrangements necessary to minimize lost time. If your company is interested in participating, contact Wendy Sage-Matsis at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 647-1233.