Two years ago Liz Rejman was ready to hop a flight to California for an important meeting, when she received a phone call from her elderly father’s assisted-living facility. He had broken his wrist.
“You have to make choices. Does work come first in a moment when your parents might need you, or do you change your schedule?” asks Ms. Rejman, a fundraising director for Pathways to Education, a national charitable organization in Toronto.
In the end, because the injury was relatively minor and she was assured her father would receive good care, she decided to fly out for the meeting anyway. But the decision weighed heavily on her. Ms. Rejman is the primary caregiver for her now-99-year-old father and her 93-year-old mother; the couple divorced long ago. Although she has one other sibling, a half-brother, he lives in another city and is not involved in the day-to-day care decisions for their mother. Her father just naturally assumes she will take on that role for him, too.
Many Canadian women who are juggling demanding, full-time careers find themselves facing similar expectations, bearing the brunt of caring for aging parents who can no longer live independently. While the number of women versus men caring for elderly relations is slightly higher at 57 per cent, according to Statistics Canada, the tasks themselves cut through gender lines. Daughters typically do more inside the house – preparing meals, administering medications, co-ordinating doctor visits, cleaning and laundry.
Sons are more likely to pick up outdoor jobs and home-maintenance work. Unlike daily personal care, most of these chores aren’t time sensitive. They can wait until the weekend.
To tactfully broach conversations about a loved one’s physical and mental health, experts recommend affirming their autonomy, validating their...