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The new carers

Antonio Abellán, Alba Ayala and Julio Pérez, CSIC. CCHS; Rogelio Pujol, INE; Gerdt Sundström, Jönköping University; Adaptation: María Ramos, post-doctoral researcher at the Carlos III University of Madrid
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Women continue to be those who with greater frequency are in charge of caring for a dependent family member. However, in households with two elderly people, there is a balance between men and women in the cities and also at very advanced ages (from 80 years onwards) there are more men than women responsible for the informal care of a dependent family member.
Key points
  • 1
       Up to the age of 65 years, care of family members within the family fell fundamentally to women.
  • 2
       As age increases the gender differences in care decrease and, from 80 years onwards, there are more men as main carers of a family member than women.
  • 3
       In two-person households, which is the type of household that has grown most in recent years among elderly people, caring for a partner is very much generalised.
  • 4
       Demographic and social changes are putting forward new challenges for public services and families. Two-person households present double needs: those of dependent people, but also those of their carers.
Profile of main carers according to types of household
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Middle-aged women are the most frequent profile arising among people who take responsibility of informal care within the family. IN nearly all age groups there are many more women than men carers, and gender differences are particularly pronounced between 45 and 65 years. At these ages there are up to six times more women than men taking care of a dependent family member.

However, from the age of 80 years onwards, gender differences in care decrease, and it is then that there are more men (27,900) than women (20,300) as main carers within the family.

New households

Until a few decades ago in Spain it was very frequent for elderly people to live in the family home together with family members of different generations. Today, the size of households is getting increasingly smaller and elderly people who live with their families are a minority: the majority live alone (23%) or with their partner (42%), which is the living arrangement that has grown most among the elderly.

Caring for the carers

Beyond the personal satisfaction arising from caring for a loved one, the care of dependent persons may have negative effects on the wellbeing of carers because it may jeopardise their social relations and their physical and emotional status. There are many possible actions to support carers, from training interventions for families to programmes offering guidance and psychological support to carers. As necessary as extending the formal care networks for the care of elderly people is strengthening the support programmes for informal carers.

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