Health Canada identifies income as one of the most important determinants of overall health and well-being. Caregivers’ financial situation is therefore an important predictor of financial and emotional strain in caregiving (Roxbury, Higgins & Schroeder, 2009). Given their greater life span and social roles, women are far more likely to be at risk of experiencing low-income as well as becoming a caregiver.
Caregiving can require either partially or entirely meeting the needs of the care recipient, including basics such as food, heat and shelter. Yet caregivers with modest or low-incomes may not have enough money for their own, much less others’, care. If the caregiver has a low or fixed income, this can lead to chronic financial uncertainty, including their own ability to provide themselves basics such as nutritious food, meet household costs, and transportation. Caregiving can also negatively impact potential income earning (see employed caregivers).
For caregivers, the health and social implications of low-income include higher rates of poor health and death, disrupted relationships, and ultimately a higher cost to health care systems through additional physician and emergency room visits (MS Society, 2009). Further, a lack of money can cause social isolation, loneliness and depression, as well as ill health and a shorter lifespan. For older adults caring for a family member, living on a fixed income means they may always be only one ’emergency’ away from the threshold of poverty.