As mothers, sisters and daughters, women are often counted on to be caregivers for family members in need. Whether it’s something as small as a cold or as debilitating as a terminal illness, women are typically the ones to care for and help out when a loved one is sick. But what happens when the caregiver is in need of her own care? Too many women are stuck facing this dilemma head on, instead of preparing for it while there’s still plenty of options, resources and time ahead. Below are a few reasons why it’s so important for women to plan for their own long-term care strategies now.
Women Are Outliving Men
According to the Centers For Disease Control, in 2017 the average life expectancy of men was 76.1-years-old. Women on average, however, outlived their male counterparts by five years, with a life expectancy of 81.1 years.1 While an extra five years may not sound like much, it opens women up to a much higher likelihood of developing chronic illnesses and disabilities that can threaten their autonomy.
Not only is the husband often no longer around to act as a caregiver during these last few years, but the couple’s collective savings may have been drained early on as well. This can happen because as a woman focuses on caring for her ill husband, his care and expenses can quickly deplete their savings. So when it comes time for a woman’s own need for long-term care, the funds are no longer there.
Higher Risk of Health Problems
As mentioned before, a longer life expectancy leaves women much more vulnerable to developing chronic health problems later in life. Because of this, the majority of the population in need of long-term care services are women. In fact, 66.8 percent of nursing home residents, 59.1 percent of hospice care users and 70.2 percent of residential care community members are women.2 Unfortunately, while you may not think long-term care is a part of your future, the statistics speak for themselves. More likely than not, women are going to be in need of some sort of long-term care later in life.
Affordability Is an Issue
Widows, divorcees and women who have never been married are often at a disadvantage when it comes to being able to afford the long-term care needed later in life. Twenty percent of widowed women 65 and older were impoverished in 2012, while that number jumped to 29 percent in women who have never been married.3 Factor in a lack of long-term care strategizing and the development of a sudden chronic illness, and those women who were trying to stay afloat in times of good health are likely to only sink further into debt.
Lack of Retirement Planning
There are several reasons why women just aren’t planning for retirement at the same rate that men are. While women make up 46.8 percent of the workforce, they’re typically spending less time working as they leave jobs to raise a family or care for loved ones.4 Additionally, women are typically earning only around 80 percent of what their male counterparts do, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.5
With less income and an often smaller focus on career, women generally aren’t putting the same amount of effort into retirement planning as men are. And without proper planning, they aren’t preparing themselves or their finances for the possible need for long-term care and other unexpected expenses.
Women Provide Care To Others
Whether it’s for aging parents or loved ones with disabilities, one in five Americans serves as a caregiver. Of that group, 58 percent are women.6 And while many are happy to help, caregivers don’t always take into consideration the physical, mental or financial toll it can take. Not only can caregiving remove a woman from the workforce, but it can drain her finances as she spends her savings on the expenses of a loved one. In doing so, she may be opening herself up to a future lack of funds when it comes to her own long-term care expenses.
With women being at a higher risk for needing long-term care later in life, it’s important to spend time now preparing for unexpected expenses. Take the time to incorporate a long-term care strategy into your retirement plan to help keep yourself afloat in the face of untimely events.