Wives and Stepchildren Are Often in Conflict Over Caregiving

Being a caregiver for an older loved one can be stressful, not least because the work often seems to fall to one person, with other family members seemingly unaware of how much work goes into caregiving. When a woman is caring for her husband and needs help from his adult children from a previous marriage, conflicts can arise.

This issue was examined in a study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family. The study looked at late-life wives whose husbands had Alzheimer’s or other dementia and what sources of support they had. Many of the women in the study felt that their husband’s relatives – particularly his adult children – had a negative impact on their caregiving. The women often felt that their husband’s adult children made a minimal contribution to caregiving, or created conflict.

Researchers – and caregivers – were already aware that being a caregiver can be demanding and isolating. The new study shows that it is especially challenging for remarried caregivers.

Researchers interviewed 61 women for the study and found cases where adult children refused to believe a diagnosis of dementia or refused to participate in decision-making about caregiving. Some women had had lawsuits filed against them by their husband’s adult children, claiming money was being misspent.

For caregivers experiencing these issues, the solution is often to find positive emotional and practical support elsewhere: from friends, professionals, and their own loved ones.


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