Women Twice as Likely as Men to Care for Aging Parents, Survey Says

Are you the primary caregiver of an aging parent? Does that care take up an average of 12 hours per month? If you answered “yes” to both questions, chances are, you’re a woman.

women caregiversAccording to a Washington Post article, a recent survey finds that daughters become the primary caregiver of an aging parent twice as frequently as sons. The findings, presented yesterday at a meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco, also note that daughters more than twice as many hours as sons caring for parents. The article continues:

The new research found that in families with children of both sexes, the gender of the child is the single biggest factor in determining who will provide care for the aging parent: Daughters will increase the time they spend with an elderly parent to compensate for sons who reduce theirs, effectively ceding the responsibility to their sisters.
By foisting most of their care-giving duties onto women, men also shift the physical and mental stress of providing care, as well as the financial burden, the study’s author said.
Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University, found that daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of elderly parent care per month as compared to sons’ 5.6 hours.
 “In other words, daughters spend twice as much time, or almost seven more hours each month, providing care to elderly parents than sons,” Grigoryeva said in a written statement. She said the data suggest that despite a shift toward more gender equality in the United States in the past few decades, the imbalance is “acute” when it comes to caring for aging parents.
While the study, “When Gender Trumps Everything: The Division of Parent Care Among Siblings,” is yet to be published, these findings support others reported by the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). According to FCA’s fact sheet, Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures, women provide “the majority of informal care to spouses, parents, parents-in-law, friends and neighbors, and they play many roles while caregiving—hands-on health provider, care manager, friend, companion, surrogate decision-maker and advocate.” This care has an annual value of between $148 billion to $188 billion. In addition:
  • Estimates of the percentage of family or informal caregivers who are women range from 59% to 75%.
  • The average caregiver is age 46, female, married and working outside the home earning an annual income of $35,000.
  • Results from a 1994–1995 study indicate that the odds of female spousal caregivers retiring are more than five times that of noncaregivers.
  • 25% of women caregivers have health problems as a result of their caregiving activities.

So, what does this mean for Assisted Living providers? The FCA suggests that “support services can make a real difference in the day-to-day lives of caregivers. Research has shown, for example, that counseling and support groups, in combination with respite and other services, have positive direct effects on health behavior practices and assist caregivers in remaining in their caregiving role longer, with less stress and greater satisfaction.” Assisted Living providers can and do provide respite to family caregivers by offering services such as support groups.

If you’d like to learn about an evidence-based program proven to reduce stress, anger, and anxiety while improving quality of life for your caregivers, whether they be family members or staff, then be sure to register for CALA’s 2014 Fall Conference & Trade Show. Tuesday’s session, “Improving Memory Care Support by Reducing Caregiver Stress,” will examine healthy ways for family members and care staff to manage stress, and you’ll take away ready-to-use practices as you explore ways to extend to reach of the program beyond your Assisted Living community. Register today!


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