A new study reported on this week found that daughters are significantly more helpful than sons when it comes to taking care of their elderly parents. Referencing data found from surveying 26,000 Americans, it seems that daughters spend on average 12.3 hours a month looking after an elderly parent versus sons who spend on average 5.6 hours a month caring for their elderly parents. Significantly, gender is an important factor when it comes to taking care of a parent and not “free time”. Overall, a son will decrease his caregiving duties to a parent when he has a sister regardless of any other factors.
The study suggests that daughters are the ones who bear the primary responsibilities of caring for the elderly. As such, there is a corresponding loss of career opportunities and financial hardships suffered by the caregiver daughters. Additionally, the study goes on to examine the mental and physical toll on women who are the primary caregivers to elderly parents.
For a funny and poignant look at caring for elderly parents, Roz Chast’s “Can’t we talk about something more pleasant?” documents her journey caring for her parents as they age and decline mentally and physically. Chast, an only child and a New Yorker cartoonist, illustrates the struggles with her parents who refuse to acknowledge they need help. Anyone who has been through this process with their own parents or elderly relatives will recognize their own experiences in Chast’s book, from the reluctance to move into an assisted living facility (and how to pay for it all) to discussing an estate plan. One particular chapter focuses on Chast’s mother’s reluctance to appoint a power of attorney. Chast’s recommendation that she needs one is dismissed with the suggestion it affords children an opportunity to steal from their parents.
As baby boomers become the caregivers to their parents and become seniors themselves, we can expect more attention and discussion on how to deal with changing family dynamics.
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