Sons as Informal Caregivers to Aging Parents: Evidence of an Emerging Trend
Are advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, physicians, social workers and other primary health care providers overlooking a potential resource when developing a plan of care for community-dwelling elderly? Within the current context of an aging population, men can no longer be considered bystanders as caregivers to their aging parents. Emerging international family research has indicated that there is a growing trend for adult sons to assume some responsibility for the health care needs of their aging parents.
This presentation explores select literature from multiple countries that furthers the premise of this work and connects the author’s research outcomes as supportive evidence for this growing trend. The purpose of the author’s study is to propose that outcomes observed through a secondary analysis of data from a mixed methods research project, conducted with a sample of 60 elderly women residing in independent living centers, supports the concept that sons play a role in elder care.
The present study is a retrospective interpretation utilizing the original data base to examine the new question, “What specific roles do sons play in caregiving of their elderly mothers?” While daughters presently continue to emerge in existing health care studies as the primary care provider, there is a significant pattern in these data, as well as in data from a variety of international studies, for older persons to depend upon sons for a variety of instrumental and other activities of daily living.
As baby-boomers age, there is more of a cohort trend for their families to be smaller, adult daughters to be employed, and for adult children to be more geographically mobile. These factors may combine to make health care support networks more limited for the current aging population, challenging the elderly and their formal health care providers to revisit the cultural gender norms that are currently used to identify caregivers.