Good or bad, right or wrong, caring for elderly family members usually falls to the women in a family. As a man, I can see why this would be, though I certainly think that men would do well to take up some more of the caregiving responsibility. It is important, even holy, work. And it’s the kind of work–usually difficult, thankless, and rewarding only on a personal level–that men particularly need to do more of, because it is so different than the kind of work men usually seek to do.
But enough of men. I’ve come across a number of articles exploring the issues of caregiving and women:
Daughters usually deal with strain of helping aging parents
“The women were definitively responsible for hearth and home and family,” Kennedy said. “Now you have working women, but no one ever took the responsibility (of care) off women.”
Kennedy said that with 80 percent of women now working outside the home, it’s important to devise a strategy that will work for everyone.
“We want to empower women and say, ‘Whatever decision you make, whatever choice or model is the right one,’ ” Kennedy said. “There is no single best way to do it, but we are saying everyone needs to step up. If you have siblings, sit down and write a contract. If you need a mediator, get one.”
A contract, Kennedy said, can be the best way to make certain individual needs are met while still providing care for loved ones.
“Talk about what’s going on, if you need additional support and everyone contributing to the degree they are able,” Kennedy said. “Delegate tasks. Specifically say, ‘Now what’s going to happen when we take our vacation? We need x number of weekends and the options are as follows: Mom can go to your care or respite care, it’s your choice.’ ”
When a Daughter Must Parent Her Parents
A new study shows why caring for aging parents more often falls on women than on men.
Warning: If you are a woman with a spouse, parents, or parents-in-law, you are likely to spend a number of years as a caregiver.
“In terms of society’s norms, the responsibility to care for parents tends to fall on the women,” said Marina Bastawrous, the author of the study, who discovered that 40 percent of female caregivers experience high-level stress. Women, she noted, are more likely than men to quit their jobs in order to care for their parents. When my parents started needing more care than I could handle along with my demanding job, I cut my hours back to 30 a week. Eventually I quit altogether. More information on the toll that caregiving takes is available from the Family Caregiver Alliance.
Female Caregivers Face a Heavier Toll: Study
More prone to depression than men when watching over ailing, elderly parents, review finds
An estimated 44 million adults in the United States provide unpaid care to another adult. A 2004 study commissioned by the AARP and other organizations estimated that caregiving is more stressful on women, who make up more than six in 10 caregivers: 40 percent said caregiving stressed them at high levels, compared to just 26 percent of men.
In the new review, Bastawrous examined 42 studies that looked at the effects of caregiving on adult children who take care of their parents. More than half of the studies looked at daughters who served as caregivers.
Overall, the studies suggest that daughters suffer more than sons when they don’t get along with their ailing and elderly parents. The relationships rupture, she said, when there is less cooperation, less communication and more conflict.
In our parents’ time, not so many women were working. It was just assumed, it was part of socialization, that women would just be available for whoever in the family got sick first or complained the loudest.
We have not acknowledged that there is this enormous free labor pool out there called mostly women middle-aged family caregivers who wrestle with, “How do I do right by Mom or Dad or my spouse who suddenly has a life-threatening illness without sacrificing the resources I will need to keep myself solvent and socially stimulated and healthy into my old age?”
You are expected to take over when somebody comes home from the hospital for a crew of about 24 people who have specialized jobs over the course of 24 hours in a hospital. Suddenly it’s all on you.
It’s an enormous shock and undertaking. So you have to find ways to enlist the doctor or the charge nurse to help you — before you leave the hospital — learn as much as you can and afterward to get more help at home.