The PD-Care Gender Gap
By Lauren Arcuri
Women with Parkinson’s disease are less likely to have caregivers than men with Parkinson’s, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania. The study, which was published in Neurology in December 2017, looked at more than 7,000 patients across the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, and Israelas part of a larger study funded by the Parkinson’s Foundation.
Researchers found that about 90% of male patients had caregivers, compared with just under 80% of female patients. Men were also more likely to have caregivers with them during their first visit to a study center. (Interestingly, researchers found that caregivers of women with Parkinson’s disease reported experiencing less psychological stress than caregivers of men with the disease.)
A follow-up study is in the works to probe the reasons for this disparity, says the study’s lead author, Nabila Dahodwala, M.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. But based on past research, they’ve already found some clues: “Older women are more likely to be living alone because they’ve outlived their spouse,” she says, and may not want to hire outside help. Some studies also suggest that men feel less comfortable being caregivers: “Men might not feel prepared to take on that role for their spouse. That’s one of the potential hypotheses we will test.” She also cites the socioeconomic barriers that can arise, such as lost income, when a spouse or child stays home to care for a family member.
Once researchers can pinpoint the reasons, they can start to find ways to address the issue for example, by providing caregiver training sessions for family members and friends. “This study was a reminder for everyone, including myself, of how important caregiving is,” says Dahodwala, “and that not everyone has access to it.”
Originally printed in MoreThanMotion, Spring 2018.