Children Share the Care of
June 28, 2002 -- Adult 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 Steven Stern, professor of economics
at the University of Virginia.
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 current issue
of 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,"
and his colleague took issue with previous research that suggested
that siblings compete with each other for future bequests by helping
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 long-term care.
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.
more information, call Steven Stern at (434) 924-6754, or contact
him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sterns research interests include the economics of aging and