Most Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care. But long-term care is a double-edged sword that particularly affects women. As caregivers, women are more stressed than male caregivers, less likely to be employed than male caregivers, and spend as much as 50% more time in caregiving than men.

And for those needing care, women live an average of five years longer than men, which explains why there are more women in need of LTC services. Women are three times more likely to live to age 90, which explains why 80% of women are widows by age 90 (compared to only 40% of men).

Since there has been increased focus over the last decade on helping women specifically with their financial goals, Shawn Britt, technical director for the advanced consulting group at Nationwide Retirement Institute, examined in a blog post from Nationwide what has changed with the state of long-term care, and what changes have occurred that could affect women planning for retirement.

For one thing, men’s involvement in caregiving is changing. Family Caregiver Alliance reported 12 years ago that more than 75% of caregivers were women, and women continue to be most non-paid caregivers, primarily to spouses and parents. Now, men are more involved with caregiving and now comprise 39% of caregivers.

However, men are more likely to help with tasks such as paying bills and taking their loved ones to the doctor, while female caregivers are still more likely to provide the more difficult tasks such as personal care. Men are more likely to be a caregiver if younger. Men between ages 18 to 49 comprise 42% of adult caregivers, while men between ages 50 to 64 make up only 35% of caregivers.

It was estimated 12 years ago that the cost of balancing work with caregiving could cost a woman an average of $565,000 over her lifetime in lost wages, Social Security, and pension benefits. Today, that figure is around $324,000, while lower, is still a substantial financial loss.

A few explanations for the reduction in the loss of income are that men have become more involved in caregiving responsibilities and sharing in the loss of income. Employers are more aware of their employee’s caregiving responsibilities and may show some flexibility. Workplace benefits for caregivers have increased, paid time off is more flexible, the increased availability of paid family leave, and there are more flexible work hours.

However, despite these improvements, some employees are reluctant to disclose caregiver status to their supervisor unless it results in caregiver benefits.

Since caregiving is a major challenge for many Americans more studies have come out designed to understand the effects of and changes in caregiving. There’s also more support available now to help caregivers handle their challenges than there was 12 years ago, including online help that is far more advanced than it was in the past.

Still, some online opportunities available to caregivers are being missed. Caregivers are underutilizing the internet to connect with other caregivers. And until the pandemic hit, only a few caregivers were consulting with doctors virtually (though online consultations with doctors are becoming the norm since the pandemic).

There are more choices for care services than there were 12 years ago. More assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC), and even alternative care services exist now, providing choices for more customized care.

The expansion of cash indemnity policies, where the insurance company places no restrictions on how LTC benefits are spent, has also expanded the opportunity to use LTC benefits for alternative care services and has also made family care more palatable.

While the last 12 years have seen many positive changes in the LTC industry that have been helpful to women, it’s still a double-edged sword women should plan for  both as a caregiver and as the cared-for.

“As America continues to age, the challenges of long-term care will become more critical than ever before,” wrote Britt. “By helping clients now in planning for a potential LTC event and how to help pay for it, financial professionals can help ease the physical, financial, and emotional stress faced by caregivers and care recipients  both more likely to be women.”

Nationwide offers a variety of actively managed ETFs for advisors that cater to a range of investment exposures and strategies for those seeking retirement income options for their clients as part of their bigger retirement planning pictures.

For more news, information, and strategy, visit the Retirement Income Channel.

This article was prepared as part of Nationwide’s paid sponsorship of ETF Trends.

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