Women more likely than men to go into care home




Elderly women are 40 per cent more likely to go into care homes than men, say researchers.

Many find themselves left on their own and unable to cope because they marry older men who die earlier.

Even when husbands are still alive they may be too frail to look after their wives if they fall ill.

In the past it has been estimated that as many as three quarters of care home residents are women.

Some experts have claimed this is because men are less caring and do not want to take up traditional female roles.

But academics from Queen's University Belfast say their study 'debunks' this myth.

It is not that men do not want to care – but rather that they are incapable of doing so because they are too frail, or are dead.

The researchers followed 20,830 couples over the age of 65 for six years. The women were on average five years younger than the men. Over the six years 416 people went into care homes.

The researchers calculated that women were 40 per cent more likely to be admitted than men. And regardless of their sex, people were far more likely to go into a home once they were living alone after their spouse had died.

Dr Mark McCann, the author of the study, said: 'The higher admission risk for women in comparison to men appears to be due primarily to the differences in the age and frailty of their partners.

'This research has gone some way to debunking the myth that older men do not want to care for their partners.

'The findings clearly show that the main reason more women are admitted to care homes is that their partners are unable to provide sufficient support. Age differences between partners are evident in most societies so it is important that issues raised in this paper are considered in future health planning.'

But Dr McCann, whose study is published today in the journal Age and Ageing, pointed out that younger couples tend to be of a similar age.

That means that in future women may be less likely to have to go into care homes because their husbands will still be alive.

'The projected narrowing of the gap in life expectancy between men and women may mean that there are more men around to provide such support in future years,' he added.

Last year a report by the British Geriatric Society estimated that there were 376,250 elderly people living in care homes in England, of whom 75 per cent were women.

But it warned that despite substantial improvements in recent years, many care homes were not properly looking after their vulnerable residents.

The report cited one study carried out by the Department of Health that found that 70 per cent of residents were mistakenly given the wrong drug or drug dose by staff every year.

It also warned that many primary care trusts assume that once patients are in residential homes they no longer need NHS care.

Professor Finbarr Martin, president of the British Geriatrics Society, said at the time: 'The fault in many cases is not with care homes but with those responsible for ensuring that the NHS plays its part in ensuring that healthcare needs of residents are met.'

Sourced from the Daily Mail, 17th April 2012.