The Difference Between Caring for an Aging Mom and Dad

Did you know caring for Mom can be different for Dad?
Posted by The Arbors on Mar 22, 2019 8:00:00 AM

A family sitting on a couch for a family photo

A lot has been written for parents about the difference between raising boys and girls. Caring for an aging mom can be different from caring for an aging dad, too. And it may help to be aware of the few differences.

Keep in mind that these are generalizations and don't apply to either sex all of the time.


Women outlive men in almost every society. In more developed countries, the average life expectancy at birth is 79 years for women, 72 years for men. It makes sense then that elderly women are three times more likely to be widowed or living alone.

What does this mean for caregivers? Odds are that you will likely care for your mom and that you will care for her for a longer period of time.

Health Conditions

Research shows that women are more likely to see a doctor and possibly be diagnosed earlier with health problems.

When it comes to disease prevalence, almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women. However, men with dementia are 8 percent more likely to wander and 30 percent more likely to be combative.

Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, have a higher risk of closed-angle glaucoma, and are diagnosed more frequently with macular degeneration. More males die from various cancers than females, and men are 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s disease.


Research shows that after 50, men and women begin to go down separate roads in terms of happiness. Women's overall mental health and life satisfaction also improve with age. Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide in women go down, not up, as they grow older.

On the other hand, men show less inclination to use coping skills and tap their mental, emotional, and relational strengths to deal with adversity.

Financial Discussions

A Northwestern Mutual survey showed older dads are twice as likely as moms to discuss their long-term care wishes and actual plans with an adult child. Women tend to be more cautious when it comes to financial planning and are more likely than men to say that their money management strategies need improvement. 

In addition, women expressed concerns over their financial preparation for their golden years. Those who report being financially prepared to live to age 75 accounted for 48 percent for women versus 65 percent of men. Only 37 percent of women said their finances would last them to age 85, compared with 55 percent of men.

“There are some good signs here — particularly in women's recognition that their financial planning needs more attention,” said Rebekah Barsch, Northwestern Mutual Vice President. “But as is the case with everyone we surveyed, not just women, there is a distinct need to bring more focus and discipline to the financial planning process.”

Keep in mind that these are generalizations and don't apply to either sex all of the time. You and your siblings will face many different challenges caring for your aging mom versus your aging dad.

If your parents are healthy and you have a close relationship with your siblings, now is the time to carefully consider caregiving roles and responsibilities and to allow everyone time to get on the same page.

For tips about navigating adult sibling relationships, download Brothers and Sisters, a guide to resolving sibling conflict when making assisted living decisions.

Resolving sibling conflict when making assisted living decisions

Topics: Family Resources