Today families across North America are celebrating mothers and all they do to help children lead their best possible lives. But women also comprise the majority of caregivers for aging parents; and sandwiched between careers, children and elder care, they may be feeling the strain of caregiving. Today, and every week, loved ones can help support mom or a female caregiver by allowing her time to take care of herself; to make doctor appointments, exercise, socialize or simply get her hair done.
It is estimated that more than 25 million American women, nearly 1 in 7, provide care to a family member or friend. The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works full-time and provides care to one or both of her or her spouse’s aging parents while caring for children still at home. The time commitment necessary to fulfill all of these responsibilities often takes a toll on a woman’s health, making chronic conditions worse or causing new health problems. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women who spend more than 9 hours each week caring for an ill spouse are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease.
The stress, social isolation and emotional demands of caregiving can also have a negative effect on mental health. Female caregivers have a higher rate of depression and anxiety than non-caregivers. And while trying to balance family needs with a career, women frequently find they are passed over for advancement or may be forced to leave their jobs because their workplace is not flexible enough to allow them to work and provide the care needed for loved ones.
Brunch and flowers are lovely but this Mother’s Day, it’s a good idea to also give mom something she can really use; time to take care of herself. It doesn’t have to be a lavish spa weekend; maybe it’s a gift certificate for yoga classes and the offer of respite care for an elderly family member. Recognizing and supporting caregivers is a gift that will help keep women healthier and happier all year round.