As my friends and I get older our conversations have shifted from our young adult dramas to our parent’s-getting-older dramas. The role-reversal of whom is worrying about whom’s health has shifted. Case in point, I was having brunch with a good friend and she was talking about her elderly father’s recent noticeable mental decline. She wondered aloud, and in tears, how she was going to deal with his health in the near future. Suddenly she stopped mid-sentence and said bitterly, “You know what’s not fair? I bet my brothers aren’t having this conversation with their friends, I bet it hasn’t even occurred to them.”

And it’s true, caregiving for our parents has been historically the responsibility of the daughters. Of course, not in all cases – but studies have shown that the majority of the burden has fallen on the womenfolk of the family.

Enter Daughterhood A community built as a meeting place for women caregivers. I was honoured that the CEO and Founder of Daughterhood Anne Tumlinson took the time to answer a few questions about how caregiving roles has been gendered historically and how a community of people going through the same thing can be the extra help we are looking for during difficult times.

How have women been groomed socially for are giving as opposed to men?

There’s no question that society is changing its understanding of traditional gender roles and the expectations and assumptions that come with them. However, that change has been very slow in coming and generation x and millennials continue to struggle to break out of these roles. There’s still pushback (however subtle it might be) socially women attempt to step out of these roles. One big reason our company is called Daughterhood is that, In the world of caregiving, when a man steps forward to care for elderly parents he’s a hero and when a women does it, it’s expected and is often thought that it’s “the least she can do.”

How do we teach this and the next generation of men to be equal willing caregivers in their parent’s care?

The great news is that more and more men are becoming caregivers. I believe AARP has some new data on this and it’s very encouraging. Also, teaching by example is always the best way. As I said roles and the expectation of both women and man in those roles is changing. Many more men are stepping forward to take the role of caregiver and we welcome them into our Daughterhood community and into our Daughterhood circles, which are community support groups for caregivers.

In your blog you have addressed sibling conflict. What is your recommendation for caregivers who feel their siblings aren’t pulling their weight?

As I mention in my blog on sibling conflict, “Caring for Aging Parents – A Sibling’s Survival Guide”, the conflict and fighting that erupts with siblings as the result of caregiving is just about the most painful aspect of caring for elderly parents. The combination of shared history, family dynamics, guilt and the crises and mortality of someone you love often results in pain and wounds that can be overwhelming. So, what can be done? Well, any pain in a relationship is an opportunity for healing. Sometimes it just takes time to realize that the situation is difficult for everyone and that working together as a team is the way to go.

Tell me about the Daughterhood Circles. How did they start? What are their reach?

Daughterhood was founded in 2015 with the mission of supporting and building confidence in women who are managing their parents’ care. As effective as the blogs and information sharing on the site has been, we realized almost immediately that a connection with caregivers on the local community level was needed.

The first circle was started in San Diego and since has grown to currently 22 active circles and more are in the process of forming. Daughterhood circles aim the power of community and friendship directly at the challenges that come with this new life phase.

These small groups get together regularly to hang out, relax and help each other navigate caring for their aging parents.

Our goal is to create a relaxed atmosphere that emphasizes camaraderie. We want circle participation to be a life-enhancing experience.

Each meeting is a gathering of friends helping friends where laughter abounds, new ideas are created and peace prevails. The circle becomes a community of people who can link each other with their favorite resources, providers, and share information.

Finally, what’s the best thing about aging?

Among all the creaks discomforts and illness that accompany old age there are some gems to be found that we all can look forward to. Generally, there is more time to take time for the things you love – friends, family, hobbies. There is also a wisdom that comes with living life a long time that can’t be achieved in any other way. Wisdom and also empathy for others that comes from a life time of living, of facing your own disappointments and failures. And of course, there are senior discounts. 🙂

Anne Tumlinson

Anne Tumlinson Founder and CEO of Daughterhood has spent the last two decades working on improving how America cares for its frailest, most vulnerable older adults. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her two children and geriatric canine, Maggie.

Visit her blog and hub of amazing caregiver resources here.

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