Children care for elderly
by Jenny Gerow
By Charlotte Crystal
siblings are learning to share in the care of their elderly parents.
the eldest daughter still tends to shoulder the heaviest burden
of caring for aging parents, more and more adult children are
pitching in, says economics
professor Steven Stern.
often behave as if there is only one caregiver, said Stern.
While there is usually one child who is the primary caregiver,
other adult children are often willing to help out, within the
limits of their capabilities. Often, the caregiver may not think
to consult with her siblings and she misses out on opportunities
to get help.
But this has been changing.
and his co-author, Tenille Checkovitch, now a Yale-educated lawyer
and formerly an undergraduate student at U.Va. majoring in economics,
studied the arrangements families make to care for aging parents
in their article, Shared Care-giving Responsibility of Adult
Siblings with Elderly Parents, published in the Journal
of Human Resources, Vol. 37, No. 3, which appeared on June 21.
researchers found that:
Women provide more care than men.
Race has little impact on a childs decision to care for
parents, after taking into account other family characteristics.
Children living farther away from their parents provide less care.
Children provide more care for parents who need help with the
tasks of daily living, such as dressing, eating and getting around.
The more children in the family, the less care each child provides,
although total care increases.
seem to fall into two different groups, Stern says. In one, the
children make their caregiving decisions independently; in the
other, they work as a team. It has something to do with
family dynamics, Stern says.
and his colleague took issue with previous research that suggested
that siblings compete with each other for future bequests by helping
Sterns results did not substantiate that argument, showing
instead that sibling rivalry didnt lead to more help from
all the children. Instead, more help from one child tended to
result in less help from the others.
all, the authors found that families often have more flexibility
in caring for aging parents than they may realize and most or
all the children no matter their gender, income levels
or the distance they live from their parents should be
involved in making decisions.
dont happen in a vacuum, Stern said. Children
take into account the care-giving decisions of their siblings
when making their own decisions.
this means is that health care providers should include all the
adult children, as much as possible, in caregiving decisions,
Stern said. And public policymakers should realize that
programs of long-term care for the elderly will affect the adult
children in these families, as well as the elderly parents themselves.
challenge is growing. Improved nutrition and medical care are
lengthening life spans, but as people age, their physical and
mental impairments increase, leading to an expanding need for
2030, there will be an estimated 70 million people over 65 in
the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
And while only 7 percent of Americas oldest population
85 and above lived in institutions in 1940, 25 percent
do now, research shows.
are complex, but solutions are easier to come by when children
talk to one another and share the care, Stern said.