Who from my family will step up and care for me as I grow older? That is a question a lot of baby boomers are asking themselves. Because the prospects are scary.
In a study reported in Long-Term Care Magazine, divorce and remarriage is changing the role of adult children in caring for aging parents and the quality of family relationships is often trumping genetic ties argues a researcher from the University of Missouri.
Lawrence Ganong, a professor and co-chair at the university’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, found that relationship quality, a history of mutual help and resource availability influence decisions about who cares for parents and stepparents.
Ganong said: “How close family members are to each other, how much they have been helped by them in the past and what hardships caregiving might place on family members are important factors when people consider caring for older kin.”
Ganong and his research team presented study participants with hypothetical caregiving scenarios involving an aging parent or stepparent and a child or stepchild. Participants then responded to questions about their perceptions of who should provide care.
The majority of participants said biological factors are relevant in caregiving decisions, but they do not automatically require adult children to help older relatives.
“Based on what happens before, during and after marital transitions, family members may change what they think their responsibilities are regarding helping and providing care to kin,” Ganong said. “As a society that relies on families to provide much of the care for older adults, we need to better understand the effects of changes in families due to divorce and remarriage.”
Ganong recommended that middle-aged adults have honest conversations with parents and stepparents about expectations for caregiving and other types of assistance before needs arise.
Ganong's study, “Who Gets Custody of Grandma After the Divorce? How Marital Transitions Affect Family Caregiving Responsibilities,” was funded by the National Institute on Aging.
So now I am praying that my stepson, whose mom I am divorced from, will stay married to my lovely daughter-in-law!