Exploitation of Spanish grandmothers

According to an article in El Mundo today, 38% Spanish grandmothers over 65 look alter their grandchildren almost full time and are exposed to the risk suffering a new condition called “slave-grandmother síndrome”. Another 22.7% look after their grandchildren sometimes, but not every day. The stress suffered by some grandmothers who feel weighed down by the responsability and exhausted by their task, causes some of them to suffer this syndrome according to a book published by the Help against Addiction Foundation and discussed during the 2nd edition of the Conference “Family in 21st Century Society”.

The book claims that there are more than 4 million women over 65 in Spain, and 30.9 of them provide fundamental support to their family network. In other words, 1.282.000 women over 65 are still the main “carers” within their family unit. Only 17.6% grandmothers over 65 are cared for by their families.

These figures have been disclosed in a paper given by the sociologist Lourdes Perez during the Conference.

Perez said that “slave-grandmother syndrome” is a real condition suffered by elderly grandmothers in charge of the care of their young grandchildren. Perez said it is difficult to diagnose the condition, but that it is characterised by the appearance in these women of chronic symptoms of common illnesses which refuse to respond to conventional treatment and produce chronic suffering and depression in the patients and a notable deterioration in their standard of living.

As many as a third of Spanish women over 65 still live with at least one of their sons or daughters, usually in their own home (as opposed to the home of their offspring), which means they still have the traditional role of main carer, and are expected to carry out the majority of domestic tasks for the whole family, despite their age.

Speakers at the conference coincided in saying that Spain’s ageing population should not be seen as a problem, in that grandparents could offer a great deal to the modern family in terms of support, logistics, affection and even economic support. But that the line must be drawn between enjoying such advantages and blatently exploiting grandmothers to such an extent that they suffer illness as a result.