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Caring for Caregivers: Building Economic Security for Older Women

Zing Health
Posted by Zing Health on May 2, 2023 10:49:37 AM

Physical, mental, and economic health are linked for older women. To assure their future health, women should understand their financial situation and proactively equip themselves to avoid economic stress should they lose their spouse. Those who are widowed can also take steps to protect their economic well-being.

Life expectancy has shortened for women aged 65, yet on average they outlive males by nearly three years. Women often outlive their husbands by a decade or more and are more likely to live in poverty if they do not have financial resources in place. Discrimination magnifies financial strain, making it constant and harder to overcome and leading to anxiety, depression and chronic physical health disparities.

Loss of Partner Strains Economic Health

Women have historically earned less money than their male counterparts. Furthermore, boomer generation women are less likely than younger women to have had full-time careers outside the home, making them financially dependent upon their husbands even in retirement.

Social Security pays survivors benefits to eligible widows whose husbands worked and paid taxes, but they may fall short of the couple’s combined income. Women who did not earn income and pay taxes may be entitled to less assistance than those who once held employment. They also might find themselves in a tough spot if they break up with a partner and live on their own resources.

Women have access to additional means of financial support but may not know they’re available when their circumstances change. Often, they qualify for Medicaid benefits, which they can claim alongside Medicare through a Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan (D-SNP). Older adults may get help to pay for healthy food under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—known as SNAP, food assistance or food stamps. This is a debit card for groceries, available through state agencies.

Senior housing subsidies from local governments can help cover the costs of renting or maintaining a safe living space, including mold removal and furnace or air conditioner repairs. Affordable rental housing for seniors is also managed by local churches and nonprofit agencies. Older women can also check on available benefits for veterans’ families, disability services, internet access and tax or legal help, as well as caregiver services and other health benefits.

Money Management Strategies for Elderly Women

For many older couples, financial planning and budgeting fall to the husband, so the widow may feel lost if she suddenly has to take responsibility for her finances. While both spouses are still living, they should discuss and make financial decisions together. However, if a widow finds herself having to make financial decisions after the death of her husband, she should still seek the financial advice of a reputable financial planner.

The grief process can cloud decision-making. Experts advise widows to wait at least one year before making significant changes, such as selling their marital property and moving in with children.

Rising healthcare costs are another concern for widows. Some may delay or avoid routine healthcare due to cost. Chronic conditions may qualify them for a Chronic Special Needs Plan (C-SNP), a Medicare Advantage plan for individuals with medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. C-SNPs offer tailored benefits, provider choices and covered drugs based on the individual’s health needs.

Eldercare Locator is a U.S. Administration on Aging public service that connects senior citizens with local resources, including social support, housing, elder rights, insurance benefits, health, and transportation. Users can search for services by ZIP code or city and state.

Preparation is the most essential measure women can take to become financially empowered. They can make wise money decisions by being actively involved in their finances and seeking advice from a reputable financial planner. With time and research, they can find community resources to help them stretch their budgets and meet their needs affordably.


Topics: Blog, holistic care, financial health, money management, stress

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