Elderly Women Find Informal Home Care Hard to Come By

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Elderly women who are disabled don't fair as well as their male counterparts when it comes to getting informal, unpaid home care, according to a new University of Michigan study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The gender differences "have enormous implications for home care program policies in the United States," according to the study's authors, who foresee an increase in the number of disabled seniors, less use of nursing homes, and more seniors living alone.

The study finds that disabled elderly women receive less unpaid care than men because women live longer, have less money saved and are often themselves a primary caregiver.

Though more disabled women were living alone, even married women received fewer hours of informal care per week than married men: on average, about 15 hours vs. 26 hours, respectively. Moreover, married women are more likely to get their care not from their husbands but from their daughters. There was only a small difference between the amount of formal, or paid care that elderly, disabled men and women received.

The University of Michigan researchers think one explanation for the difference in care- giving is that husbands "may be less prepared to fulfill the social role function of care-giving, even without the presence of disabilities." In fact, the study found that 20 percent of married disabled women provided informal home care to their husbands, compared to only 8 percent of disabled husbands providing such care for their wives.

The study is based on a 1993 survey of 7,443 seniors aged 70 or older.