The Cost of Aging and the Burden on Female caregiver
                    ~ Julie Potyraj~
Getting older comes with a price. As the U.S. population ages, more seniors are opting to remain in their homes and communities instead of relocating to long-term care facilities. This “aging in place” movement will increase the demand for caregivers and home health aides. The cost of each of these services can be burdensome on members of the aging population and their families.

Due to the rising costs of long-term care, family caregivers provide a large portion of unpaid care. In 2009, family caregivers provided more than $470 billion in unpaid care, which was more than four times what was spent by Medicaid on long-term services and almost seven times what individuals spent using private insurance. Many individuals older than 65 survive on an income that is 200 percent below the poverty line and, as a result, are dependent on Medicaid funds or on family members for unpaid care. The majority of aging Americans cover health care expenses with Medicare. However, as health care costs continue to increase, more of the aging population will be dependent on unpaid family care.

The question is, who in these families will be responsible for providing this care? Though men do provide help to family members, most caregivers are women. They spend as much as 50 percent more time caring for loved ones than men do. This work has a huge impact on women’s financial stability and health. Female caregivers often sacrifice professional progress in order to care for older family members. Of working female caregivers, 33 percent reported reducing their work hours while 20 percent switched from full-time to part-time employment. A significant number of others declined promotions or even quit their jobs. According to AARP, male caregivers are more likely to be employed full time compared to their female counterparts. Overall, women face a disproportionate financial sacrifice in order to care for family members.

Caregivers also experience physical and emotional strain. Female caregivers are twice as likely to report stress being ever-present than male caregivers. More than 60 percent of caregivers report more than moderate stress related to caring for a loved one. In addition to emotional ramifications of stress like depression, anxiety and memory loss, some of the physical effects of stress reported are a weakened immune system, obesity, and a higher risk for chronic diseases. Caregiving can be an emotionally, physically, and financially demanding role. Especially when women are shouldering most of the burden. By 2050, people 65 and older will make up more than 20 percent of the U.S. population. Beginning in 2025, older people will start to outnumber women ages 25 to 54. In order to provide the aging population with the care they need, focus also needs to be placed on alleviating the strain on caregivers.

Understanding the importance of caregivers, and specifically female family caregivers, starts with understanding the potential ramifications of an aging population on the U.S. The following infographic was developed for MPH@GW, the online Master of Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University. It looks at the cost of aging for older Americans and their family members. Aging population growth comes with financial consequences. Female family caregivers shouldn’t have to cope with those consequences alone.

Julie Potyraj is the community manager for MHA@GW and MPH@GW, both offered by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. For several years, she served as a community development specialist in rural Zambia coordinating youth empowerment programs and reproductive health education. She is currently an MPH@GW student focusing on global health and health communications. – See more at:


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