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Gender & Elder Care in New York

There is growing discussion about elder caregiving in America and across the world. As the population ages, much more attention is being paid to how seniors are treated when their health falters and their ability to care fully for themselves wanes. In general, there is a rough assumption that many cultures around the world have closer family units, while here in the United States we are more likely to pay professional caregivers.

That assessment is somewhat misleading, because even in the U.S., younger generations (adults children) continue to provide the majority of care to seniors. That is not to say that use of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at-home caregivers is not common. But, elder care is simply a reality for tens of thousands of families throughout New York.

Who is Providing Care?
Those caregiving duties are not necessarily doled out evenly. Discussion is brewing regarding the predominant role that women play in providing help to seniors–both in formal settings and as family support.

For example, a popular post on the subject this week labeled elder care “The Forgotten Feminist Issue.” Statistics show that the “typical” caregiver remains the wife, daughter, or daughter-in-law of the ailing senior. Because this support is virtually always unpaid, the discrepancy may have very real ramifications on poverty and economic mobility opportunities for women.

Women continue to dominate the paid caregiver roles as well, including non-medical at-home caregivers and nursing home aides. These positions are almost always low-paying, placing further stresses on the caregiver.

As one popular advocate for policy changes to address the issue explained about female caregivers: “A lot of them–like my mother and her friends–are doing this by the skin of their teeth, with scant to nonexistent resources. A lot of them will outlive their spouses (if they have them), exhaust their pensions (if they have them), and die alone.”

Looking to the Future
There are no easy answers to address this issue. However, some are pushing for more socialization of these tasks to take the burden off private families. One popular model is known as CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders). The general idea is to rely on the help of all community members to provide elder care–with neighbors and friends pitching in where they can to help seniors in their area at home.

All those thinking about their future that may include elder care needs–for themselves or loved ones–would do well to consider these big-picture issues. For more technical help on planning for the future contact a NY elder law estate planning attorney today.

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