When Adult Children—Primarily Daughters—Serve as “Long-Term Care Insurance”

It’s less expensive for the family, but comes at a cost to the daughter.

Photo credit: Brian Bullock, CC BY 2.0.

I know there’s a joke that ends with “…because EVERY DAY is Children’s Day!” but I do think it would be interesting if we had some kind of “celebrating our adult children” holiday, to go alongside Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

It would, of course, come with the same complications and sadnesses as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and because of that might cause more harm than good. But I like the idea of parents surveying rows of grocery-store Children’s Day cards, and grown children opening pastel envelopes to read messages like “I’m so glad you’re in my life.”

Or: “I post Minion GIFs on Facebook and I don’t know how to text, but thank you for your patience as you help me be my best.” (That would be the joke card, and it would be as awkward as every other “let’s make fun of family stereotypes” card on the rack.)

Or: “Thank you for supporting me.”

Because, as the NYT reminded us this weekend, the parent/child roles— especially mother/daughter roles—eventually switch:

Health Care? Daughters Know All About It

This week, the medical journal JAMA Neurology highlighted a looming crisis for women and their employers: the growing ranks of dementia patients who will end up relying on family members, typically daughters, for their care.

“The best long-term care insurance in our country is a conscientious daughter,” wrote the authors, all of whom are fellows at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, which studies new methods of health care delivery.

The caregiving burden, which falls primarily—though not exclusively—to daughters, encompasses both in-home care and nursing home care. That is to say: transitioning a family member to a long-term nursing facility eases some of the care burden, in that the adult child is no longer responsible for providing 24-hour care, but even if a family can afford nursing home care—which isn’t always the case—adult children still find themselves in the position of needing to visit the nursing home multiple times per week, if not every day, to ensure their loved one is being cared for appropriately.

NYT commenters go even further into the details of long-term nursing home care, explaining that for all the money they (or their parents’ estates) pay towards the facilities, they are still responsible for making sure their aging parents are wearing their glasses or dentures or that they’re receiving the appropriate medications. In some cases daughters go to nursing homes to do their parents’ laundry, because it doesn’t get done otherwise. In other cases daughters hire people to visit their parents in the nursing home on the days they cannot go themselves.

Once again I feel like I’m writing something that a lot of people already know; I’ve seen my mother navigate the complexity of eldercare and nursing home care, so this information isn’t necessarily new to me.

But it’s no coincidence that the NYT ran this story that acknowledges daughters’ caretaking work so close to a holiday that celebrates mothers. Daughters give up their careers, their dreams, the time they can spend with their partners and children, and their own health to provide care to aging family members in need.

And, as JAMA Neurology reports, more of us—of all genders—will likely take on these types of caretaking roles in the future.

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