by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
January 27, 2003
WOMEN TURN TO WOMEN FOR 'COMPASSIONATE CAPITALISM'
SAN DIEGO -- It is no secret that current economic conditions have made the single-income family one of many dwindling species in 21st Century. Much has been written about the impact of this massive shift, especially on children as women have migrated from home to workplace, but the cultural price this change has exacted from our elders is just beginning to become clear.
As both mother and father leave home for work, not only are the children bereft of their caregivers but elderly parents are, too. With the majority of women working today, not only are their children in need of surrogate caregivers but their aging parents are in need of substitute caregivers as well.
Truly, both aging and caregiving can be seen as "women's issues."
According to an article by Cathy Cress, MSW and owner of a private care management company, the average woman spends 17 years caring for a dependent child and 18 years caring for her elderly parent. Some 75 percent of all American relatives who care for the elderly are women, and 55 percent of these women work outside the home. As a recent PBS special on caregiving in America noted, American families have not abandoned their elderly: they are simply and quietly caring for them before and after work.
Not only are women doing the lion's share of caregiving, it is largely women that are being cared for. Cress sites a 1990 AARP study where there were 18.7 million older women compared to 12.6 million older men, with a ratio of 149 women for every 100 men. For the frail elderly, the ratio soars with 259 women for every 100 men.
What happens when daughters are no longer able to care for their mothers or live too far away to provide any significant help? Yes, there are always nursing homes and residential care facilities, but that decision is not well received by most aging parents, and can leave children loaded with guilt.
More and more, they are calling on other women to help. And women entrepreneurs are answering the call to care and turning it into a thriving business uniquely positioned for success in the rocky landscape of American capitalism.
Private care managers are an innovative answer to the void left in caregiving when women went to work. The role of private care managers is to relieve families exhausted by the strain of the demands of working and care giving by directly delivering and brokering needed services for elderly relatives.
As senior markets explode (66 million older persons are expected by 2030, more than 2 1/2 times their number in 1980) care managers function as surrogates for the faraway family or one unable to cope with the complex medical and social needs of their aging parents.
Though small women-owned companies largely run this new frontier, big business is watching. Already, some American companies are spending tens of millions of dollars to care for employees' elderly relatives in an effort to stop the downturn in productivity when they lack good care.
Given the fact that seventy percent of U.S. wealth is controlled by the 50 plus population and that the senior market is estimated to be $800 billion, big business will be competing for those dollars in ever more aggressive ways.
For now, women are the core of private caring arrangements. As Cress puts it, the solution to the problem created by women for women is ... other women.