Taking care of the elderly isn’t always easy. Some may struggle with the mental, physical and financial commitment of the high maintenance that oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with caretaking. Now, a recent study indicates a potential gender discrepancy in rates of effective parental caretaking. According to this data, women are much more willing to provide care for aging family members when compared to men.
Study author Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University, and her colleagues found daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of older parent care per month while sons only provide 5.6 hours of care in the same time frame.
“Sons reduce their relative caregiving efforts when they have a sister, while daughters increase theirs when they have a brother. This suggests that sons pass on parent caregiving responsibilities to their sisters,” Grigoryeva said.
Grigoryeva sourced her info from the 2004 edition of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a paper that surveys a nationally representative sample of about 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every few years. Her findings saw numerous negative physical and mental effects in caretakers of the elderly.
Richard Schulz, Ph.D., and Paula R. Sherwood, Ph.D., agree with the assessment, noting the issues of unpredictability and constant hyper-vigilance in caring for the elderly along with the strains these factors place on other areas of a caretaker’s life, such as work or school. Schulz and Sherwood find “caregiving fits the formula for chronic stress so well that it is used as a model for studying the health effects of chronic stress.”
The magnitude of mental health effects in caregivers depends on several factors, such as the recipient’s cognitive abilities, behavioral issues, duration of care, age of the caretaker, gender of the caregiver and the relationship of the helper and patient. A 2003 data collection published in the journal Psychology and Aging notes that females feel the stresses of caretaking more than men and spouses tend to face the most relationship difficulties when caring for an aging family member.
On a more positive note, one-third of caregivers do not experience ill effects of the experience, especially during short-term arrangements. Many of them also cite positive aspects of the experience, such as feeling their lives have taken on new meaning, along with the benefits of learning new skills.
Sovereign Health Group knows caretakers need care as well. After a long period of chronic stress, negative side effects, such as mental health strains, may arise and require treatment. Help is just a phone call away. Call us at any time for a referral to any of our facilities.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer