Open Gently

Musings on the introspective life.

Talk to Your Brother About Helping Your Parents

Daughters still do the caregiving. But some men will step up if asked.

Well, we all knew this was true but here's a study to prove it: daughters are spending about 7 more hours a month taking care of their aging parents than sons do.

Princeton doctoral student Angelina Grigoryeva presented her research at a recent meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco. Grigoryeva drew on a government survey in 2004. Yes, that's ten years ago, and possibly the trend has already begun to change.

But at least in 2004, Grigoryeva found, daughters did everything they could for their parents, and sons stepped in only if a sister wasn't available.

Are you a woman doing the bulk of the caregiving for an elderly parent--while your brother makes the occasional phone call? You might talk to your brother about pitching in. Perhaps he's operating on assumptions based on what he sees in other families. If you say directly that you'd like him to do more, it could be hard to refuse.

Is your caregiving interfering with your earning ability? You're helping your parent out of love, or even a sense of duty--not for pay. Still, if your parent leaves your brother just as much money as you get, and he's done very little for them, you may be hurt and resentful. Your parent is being even-handed, but the work and care wasn't evenly distributed. 

Maybe you know that your parent has left you more in the will. And you know that your brother will resent this. Try talking about it in advance, when there's still time for your brother to deepen his relationship with your parents. He may even agree that he should inherit less, if  he knows that you turned down a promotion or made other sacrifices. He may tell your parent that he sees and accepts the reasoning behind the will. He may do more caregiving.

Research shows that heirs are happier when these kinds of issues are discussed while your parents are alive. So talk to your brother. It sounds tacky to bring up money. It's even tackier, however, if either of you end up harboring resentment after your parent passes away. Sometimes silence is the worst choice.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based science writer, and former assistant editor at Newsweek.

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