Daughters Do the Caregiving: A Curmudgeon’s Perspective

Finding purpose and hope in caregiving for aging parents

caregiving for aging parents, Raleigh NCThe title of the study summary read “When Parents Need Care, Daughters Carry the Burden: Brothers often pass on responsibilities to sisters, research contends.”

The curmudgeon that I am about such topics I nearly always read them to feed my curmudgeon-ness.

It was a study that was to be presented at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in San Francisco in 2014. (That’s when I read it, and that is how long I have been curmudgeon-ing about it).

The 2014 study suggested that the gender divide in caregiving for aging parents remained strong despite the fact that these days men do more housework and spend more time on child care. “Gender inequality in elder care is more pronounced than in housework or child care,” the writer said.

(I hear this a lot!) It went on to report that daughters “took on the caregiving role because they were the only female sibling and, in turn, their brother or brothers wouldn’t do it. On the other hand, daughters who had female siblings often talked about a more even distribution of responsibilities.”

“It is a well-established fact that most elder care in the U.S. is provided at home by unpaid family members, usually adult daughters,” author Grigoryeva said in the study, but it’s not completely clear why brothers don’t contribute more.

Although the study was not designed to discern why this may be so, Grigoryeva suggested that women are often raised to be caregivers, and when the elderly parent is a woman she might not feel as comfortable with her son taking care of her.

caregiving for aging parentsThe findings also follow that daughters provide more care to mothers, while sons provide more care to fathers. Sons are most likely to step in to help elderly parents when there’s no sister or spouse to help out.

We have worked professionally with multiple families displaying all these realities. Personally, I would get all worked up about the disparity and look around for the closest soapbox to ascend. (Dis-parity, and Dis-pair).


The WHYS may not matter but the WHAT does. This “Daughters Do The Caregiving for Aging Parents” phenomenon will catch up with us personally and as a society. I am talking about the financial implications.

For example: I am of the gender expected to live longer than my male counterpart.

If I quit work to caregive then:

  • My Social Security contribution stops
  • My check will be less, or non-existent
  • My 401K contributions also stop, and
  • I cannot build my retirement.

I then have no money in later years.

Yes, our government’s and society’s tabs are going UP. And yes, there are homeless seniors.


Purging anger and disbelief atop my soapbox never resulted in any action on my own part. Spewing was never cathartic for very long.

There is no power and no hope in that line of thinking.

I decided to examine what I myself might do. I could disengage from victimhood, the “this-happened-to-me” point of view. What part of change then could I, we, even be? Here is what I determined.


I’d written: ”The WHYS may not matter but the WHAT does.”caregiving for aging parents

In that statement there is another WHAT that matters. Its what we do with this sort of startling information. It’s about HAVING THE CONVERSATION. It’s about raising awareness, calling an issue to the fore, part of NAVIGATE NC’s very mission.

WHAT we can do means HAVING THE CONVERSATION with someone you know, so they’ll know.

We do this in our work here every day. It’s also about reading into the statistics, reading into and interpreting (or questioning) what media presents to us. It may even mean (gasp) talking back to the TV (as we swore we never would, remembering our parents’ behavior).

HAVING THE CONVERSATION about caregiving for aging parents might result in making decisions differently regarding our employment and with respect to our family unit and futures. It may mean lobbying: for yourself, with an employer, by writing (like this!), or even in the legislature.

Knowledge and a front burner location will close gaps. Issues well-defined with a shared awareness bring about change. Any recent political or social issues have shown us that.

We can all do something. We can HAVE THE CONVERSATION. We can become aware; we can acquire the knowledge and shape the definition. Some will go on to take action. Many will support. A great number stand to benefit.

By writing this I now hold power, and I hold hope. Bringing power and hope is the very essence of what I want for the caregiving families who bestow their trust in us.

Knowledge and hope, education and change are integral components of advocacy services. NAVIGATE NC would be honored to help your family to navigate the changes that arrive with aging or with chronic disease. Simply CONNECT WITH US  to schedule a free initial phone consultation.

Images courtesy of morguefile.com and pixabay.com.

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