A new study in the Journals of Gerontology offers some unhappy news on how caring for aging relatives can negatively impact women caretakers.

Although the split between women and men caring for elderly parents is almost half and half, with women accounting for 57 percent, women are more likely to experience negative effects on their health or career. These effects can add to the stress already experienced with dealing with elder care, and can discourage women from continuing their lives when they’re caring for aging parents. 

Gendered Caretaking Can Be Partially to Blame

Part of this negative impact on women is due to gendered caretaking roles in western society, where women tend to perform more daily care tasks inside the home than men. For instance, daughters may administer medications, prepare meals, schedule doctor appointments, and assist with cleaning and laundry, while sons may do yard work or maintenance work that may not have to be performed immediately.

While a son who is taking on these tasks outside the home may be able to wait for a holiday or a weekend to offer his help, a daughter will need to take off work to accomplish these middle-of-the-day tasks. This may account for the reason women take off 30 percent more time  from work than men.

Caring for Elderly Relatives Can Hurt a Woman’s Earning Potential

These gendered roles are changing over time, but women are still feeling the effects. According to the study, women in the Canadian workforce are 73 percent more likely to permanently leave jobs and five times more likely to work part-time due to caring for elderly loved ones. The effect is similar in the United States, where women are more likely to quit work or stop earning full-time to take care of their elderly parents.

Because many children of aging parents are required to care for their elderly parents during the child’s peak earning years, this can have a devastating effect on a woman’s ability to increase her wealth over time. This dip in income can make it more difficult to pay for help, which could ironically reduce a woman’s negative health effects while acting as a main caretaker. Women are also disproportionately affected by guilt if they don’t drop everything to come to an aging parent’s aid..

Changing the Prospects of Unpaid Women Caretakers

There are many ways to help women have better prospects while caring for an aging relative. One way is for employers to educate their employees on how caring for an elderly parent or parents can have an outsize effect on a daughter in the caretaker role. They can also help provide support through seminars and other means. Flexible work schedules and understanding coworkers can make a world of difference to any adult child caring for an elderly parent.

Professional care management services like those provided by Aging Life can also help reduce the burden by sharing the load of caring for elderly parents. A professional care manager can carry out daily tasks such as scheduling doctor appointments and managing medications. A care management team can also advocate for an aging individual in medical care, and be a resource for adult children who are taking care of their parents as they age. 

Even when an aging mother or father is put into a senior living or assisted living home, adult children can often be overwhelmed by the daily work and decisions that they may face. A professional care management service can still help in these situations and bring relief to family members who are struggling to balance their own life with taking care of their parents.

If you would like to learn more about the services offered by Aging Life for adult children of aging parents, please schedule a free consultation today.