More Men are Caring for Aging Parents

If you are a son caring for your aging parents, you are not alone. More men are becoming family caregivers and they feel unprepared.

Helpful Highlights

  • Men have traditionally leaned into paying for eldercare, though a growing number today are providing the care.

  • 18.7 million men cared for adults in 2020, up from 16 million in 2015.

  • The percentage gap is closing between daughters and sons as caregivers, with men making up nearly 39% of caregivers (up from 27% in 1997).

  • Sons who are caregivers say they often feel unqualified or unprepared, even on routine details like grocery shopping and making healthy meals.

Everything you need is all in one place

Helpful app simplifies family caregiving by combining your loved one’s insurance benefits and medical records into one user-friendly platform while enhancing your caregiving skills

Get started for free

Very little research explores the roles of men who are adult sons and caregivers to their older parents. The few existing studies have validated that adult sons, especially those separated from aging parents by distance, express worry and concern about meeting caregiving needs

It has been proposed that men view their relationship with their older parents as more dutiful or that of an advocate, and therefore often wait until their parents request their assistance with activities of daily living. With that, sons are more comfortable with IADLs such as finances, administrative decision-making, and household management than ADLs (personal care) such as toileting, bathing, dressing, and grooming.

It has also been found that the amount of caregiving sons contribute is associated with the presence or absence of other caregivers, such as sisters or spouses. Sons reduce their caregiving efforts when they have a sister, while daughters increase theirs when they have a brother, which suggests that sons pass along caregiving responsibilities to their sisters.

Adult sons are more often care managers of services and provide a good deal of support but with the goal of helping their parent(s) regain independence and self-reliance as much as possible. In other words, they strive to empower rather than enable their aging parents.

Men also don’t necessarily define themselves in the caregiver role, but are more likely to just refer to themselves as “sons.” Therefore, men under-identify as caregivers. The former AARP VP of Government Affairs has said, “They just do things, but don’t identify as caregivers per se, so we’re not really sure what’s behind the numbers.”

By the numbers

  • Nearly 3 in 10 male family caregivers are millennials, the average age in the group 26.9 years old.

  • The average age for a caregiver son or son-in-law is 46.4 years old.

  • Among those males caring for a spouse, the average age is 62.5 years old.

  • 44% of all male family caregivers have a household income below $50,000.

  • Nearly half (49%) say they felt they had no choice in taking on the responsibility (62% among those caring for a spouse).

  • 62% of male caregivers had to make changes in their jobs, including 15% who took a leave of absence or shifted from full-time to part-time, and 6% who retired early or gave up working entirely.

  • Men still spend an average of 7-8 hours per week less on caregiving than women.

  • 6 in 10 males who report performing medical and nursing tasks say they did not receive training but would like it.

Personal care (bathing, toileting, dressing, hygiene) is reported as the most stressful task for male caregivers. They are most comfortable with finances, administrative decision-making, and household management.

Like women, men report that having help from family and friends, allowing time to “decompress”, and feeling appreciated by the person they care for help with feelings of burden and burnout.

Emotional and physical burden

Men experience more emotional distress and physical effects than women. Research suggests this is because they feel unprepared for the role of caregiver and approach caregiving in ways that disadvantage them.

  • Men tend to be more task-oriented and so, when providing care, will often view it as solving problems to achieve specific goals.

  • Most come from generations when family and household care was viewed as “women’s work” and therefore are ill-prepared to step in, even with tasks they regularly do for themselves.

  • Men are especially uncomfortable providing personal care and are less likely to provide it.

  • Men tend to keep to themselves and find it harder to talk about their feelings.

  • Many men, despite the appearance of large friend circles, have weak support networks.

  • Men don’t seek support and find it hard to ask for help.

  • Men are more reluctant to discuss caregiving issues at work or make adjustments at work to accommodate caregiving.

  • Hormonal differences actually put men at greater risk for stress-related illness and injury - and men are less likely to pay attention to their own health concerns.

A recent study showed that when men focus more on family care work, they are less likely to overinvest emotionally in their paid job role. Therefore, caregiving may be a way for men to find a new source of meaning and purpose, expand their interpersonal connections and support networks, and bust the stereotype that their employment or financial status solely defines their worth.

Normalizing men as caregivers helps families, especially the women in those families, and ultimately helps to equalize men's and women’s paid work and family duties, which benefits society and our economy.

What can men do?

  • Remember you are not alone.

  • Expect to have mixed feelings about caregiving.

  • It can help to talk about those feelings.

  • Do your homework on caregiving and ask lots of questions.

  • It's okay to ask for help from family and friends.

  • Take advantage of services and programs available in your community.

  • Remain alert for signs of depression, anxiety, and caregiver exhaustion (burnout).

  • Discuss your situation with your employer.

  • Find ways to take time for yourself.


Accius, J. (2017, March). Breaking stereotypes: Spotlight on male family caregivers. AARP Public Policy Institute. Link

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) & National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) (2020, November). 2020 Companion Report: Caregiving in the U.S. 2020: A focused look at family caregivers of adults age 50+. Link

Ansberry, C. (2021, October 24). More men are taking care of aging parents. They feel unprepared. Wall Street Journal. Link

Botek, A-M. (n.d.) Sons vs. daughters: The role of gender in caring for aging parents. AgingCare. Link

Collins, C.R. (2014). Men as caregivers of the elderly: Support for the contributions of sons. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 7, 525-531. DOI

Collins, L.M. (2023, October 25). More men are caring for frail parents, spouses. Here's what kind of help they need. Deseret News. Link

Lopez-Anuarbe, M., & Kohil, P. (2019). Understanding make caregivers' emotional financial, and physical burden in the United States. Healthcare, 7(2), 72. DOI

Right at Home

Tiribassi, O. (2021, July 12). Men are increasingly finding themselves in caregiving roles. Firstly. Link

About us

Helpful is an app to make caregiving easier. We integrate your loved one’s insurance benefits, medical records and caregiving guides into an immediate, accessible and user-friendly experience. Helpful supports your care needs by eliminating administrative tasks and providing technology to support your caregiving experience.

Get started for free