Researcher Says, Daughters Help More Than Sons. I Wonder, Do You Care?


Researcher Says, Daughters Help More Than Sons. I Wonder, Do You Care?

microscope-275984_640Over the years, I've written about research which makes me nuts because it researches the obvious. I think research should help -- it should uncover a solution, an insight, a better way. I am particularly frustrated about research related to the caregiving experience. Family caregivers need help -- they need research studies which help them feel better, find better, get better.

Consider research results released yesterday:

Daughters provided an average of 12.3 hours of elderly parent care per month compared to sons’ 5.6 hours, says a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University, who presented her research yesterday at the 109th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

In my opinion, we've overstudied how much daughters do versus what sons do. What if the researcher decided to better understand why sons don't help more? What could we do differently to involve brothers? Or how could we better understand what happened that the brothers weren't as involved? What if the researcher studied the differences between families with sons who help and those who don't? There's a reason for the study's finding -- wouldn't it be better to study that? Because if we understand how to involve more family members in the caregiving experience, we help the primary family caregiver, the caree and, yes, those uninvolved family members.

I read recently about another researcher who's studying the friendship that develops between family caregivers so that she can create support groups. Oh, gosh, this one makes me crazy. The benefit of peer support (connecting with others in a similar situation) has long been known.

One of the first emails I received after launching in 1996 was a request from Jenny, who cared for her grandmother, to connect with others. Since then, my focus has on doing just that -- connecting family caregivers with others in a similar situation. I just needed one email to understand that need.

So, rather than studying those already receiving the benefits of peer support, why not actually find family caregivers not connected to peer support and refer them to both community and online support groups and then study the impact? Or, because the researcher is affiliated with a large metropolitan hospital, what if the she created support groups to help family caregivers waiting and visiting in the hospital? The researcher has a captive audience of family caregivers in her hospital system--why not reach out to help them during her research?

Researchers help family caregivers by getting them involved in an intervention, like support groups, during the research. Isolation is such a horrible problem for family caregivers. Why not help help lessen a family caregiver's feelings of loneliness?

In essence, why study how to help when it's so obvious what help is needed?

Finally, the two research studies I mention only involve adult children caring for parents. We know that individuals care for their spouses, their partners, their siblings, their grandparents, their children, their aunts, their uncles, their friends. Why not broaden the research focus to help more? Caregiving is more than just about aging parents.

I continue to hope that researchers will remember that they have an opportunity to really help family caregivers during their actual research phase. My wish is that they structure their studies so that they do just that -- help individuals during a really stressful, really difficult time of their lives.

But, this is just what I think. What about you?

(Note: It's time for our 2014 Annual Family Caregiver Survey which asks about your caregiving experiences. I use the results to create content--podcasts, video chats, webinars and articles--to better help you. I'll share survey results this fall. Thank so much for telling me what caregiving is like for you.)

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Donna Bates

I answered a caregivers survey by a college student. I was so appalled at her questions that I copied her questions and sent them to her professor with a letter suggesting she screen the surveys going out to the public under the name of the college.\nOne question was 'How much do you drink to relieve stress from caregiving?' and 'Has this number increased as the care gets harder?' 'Has your smoking increased since caregiving?' The only thing this student knew about handling stress was substance abuse. \nSons and daughters, birth order, careers, location, and family past drama all play a role in who gives care when needed. When all that can be set aside, just for a time, and all take a moment to remember the sacrifices made for them while they learned to walk and talk. Then take another moment to calculate the funds used to raise them to the working adult they are now. How soon we forget what others have done for us.