Women and dependency

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

7 September 2010

Expectations raised by Spain’s Dependency Law have been dashed, and once again it is women who are shouldering the burden of the long-term care of family members.

The Spanish Dependency Act is finding it hard to come through. The initial processing problems have now been joined by those caused by lack of funds as a result of the crisis. The (mal)functioning of the policies on the table have severely dampened expectations and caused frustration in many families that have disabled and dependent members whose needs are not being catered for. And, like before (even more so because as the population ages, so does the number of disabled individuals - 3.84 million at the present time), most of the care has to be given by family carers.

The last survey on disability provides the information needed to draw up a profile of a typical carer: women (three of every four) of between 45 and 64 years of age, who live under the same roof as the person they take care of (79%) and almost always Spanish because, although there are increasing numbers of immigrants, only 7% of main carers are foreign.

I once wrote about the ‘sandwich woman’ who finds herself between two generations that need her care: her children who have not yet left home and her parents or those of her husband, who need her help. Some of them work out of the home; others can´t because taking care of the dependents who need them takes up most of their time. They are women of great moral strength who work to exhaustion giving unending care to the physically or mentally disabled and when they work, they have to solve very serious work-life-balance problems and have hardly any time for leisure.

I know that now is not a good time to do anything, but the problems faced by carers need to be solved as soon as possible: alternatives have to be found outside the family home or there has to be sufficient and prompt remuneration for a job that is tougher than the most rigorous of work programmes.

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