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Mother-daughter relationship key to improving end-of-life-care, study finds


Elderly care
(Getty Images)

Two-thirds of family caregivers in the U.S. are middle-aged women caring for their aging mothers. For some daughters, this opportunity offers peace of mind and a sense of closeness, but for others, it's a source of emotional strain that may increase the caregiver’s risk of long-term emotional, mental and physical health is­­­sues.

A first-of-its-kind study, published online in The Gerontologist, has identified multiple levels of mother-daughter relationship styles that may help improve in-home caregiving scenarios.

Diane Solomon, Ph.D.
Diane Solomon, Ph.D., P.M.H.N.P.-B.C., C.N.M. (OHSU)

To understand these relationship patterns, Diane Solomon, Ph.D., P.M.H.N.P.-B.C., C.N.M., and team interviewed 10 mother-daughter pairs engaged in in-home health care scenarios across the western United States. In all cases, daughters were primary caregivers.

Through open-ended conversations that uncovered mother-daughter relationship quality over time, including health changes, chronic illness and hospice care, the researchers discovered the women socially constructed three primary relational styles:

  • Close friendship
  • Neutral
  • Doing my duty

“Across the spectrum of relational styles, we found that, generally, daughters and their mothers involved in end-of-life home care struggled emotionally, either working together or apart,” said Solomon, lead author of the study, and a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program in the OHSU School of Nursing, Portland, Oregon.

Additional assessment of care-partnering mothers and daughters in all contexts, both individually and in pairs, is necessary to identify and address the unique needs of each party, she explained.

“Further understanding these styles may be the key to positively advancing intergenerational relationships in a time when we all live longer lives; improving outcomes and decreasing costs for older adults; and promoting closure and overall health for family caregivers, well into bereavement.”

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