Partner Caregiving in Older Cohabiting Couples

Claire M. Noel-Miller, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Older adults are increasingly likely to live together unmarried in an intimate heterosexual relationship. Although researchers have documented formally married spouses’ preeminence as caregivers to a disabled partner, no prior research has examined the extent to which older cohabitors provide care to a disabled partner. This study extends research on spousal caregiving to older cohabitors by examining differences between formally married and cohabiting elderly with similar levels of disability and associated need for care in (a) the likelihood of receiving care from their partner and (b) partners’ relative involvement in their care. The analysis is based on pooled time-series data from the Health and Retirement Study (2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006). Results indicate that older cohabitors are less likely than their formally married counterparts to receive care from a partner. However, among disabled elderly receiving partner care, cohabiting partners’ participation is greater than married partners’ involvement.

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Presented in Session 29: Marriage in Later Life