The Heartbreaking Reality of Business Caretakers Wishing Their Parents Never Wake Up | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Heartbreaking Reality of Business Caretakers Wishing Their Parents Never Wake Up

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Can parents be happy to see their children prioritize caregiving at the expense of work and their own families?

The number of business caregivers who take care of their parents while working is increasing. They may think, “My parents are still healthy, so they will be fine,” but one day they may suddenly have to make a choice between work and nursing care.

What should business caregivers do to make caregiving compatible with work?

Using the experience of Aina Nishizaki (49 years old, pseudonym), who decided to leave her job because she could not balance work and nursing care, as a case study, we will discuss this issue in the first and second parts of this two-part series. The second part of this report focuses on an interview with Jun Kawauchi, representative of “My Neighbor’s Kaigo,” a non-profit organization that provides consulting services to companies to support nursing care.

Part I: “She’s my daughter, why can’t I do it?” One in eight people in their early 50s is a “business caregiver,” and the choice is too severe.

In many cases, caregiving begins suddenly one day.

The most urgent issue is to take care of the parents. Resetting the mindset that caregiving = filial piety

Caring for one’s parents is an act of filial piety, so one wants to complete the task with one’s own hands.

Many business caregivers are trying their best to provide nursing care with this mindset.

However, Jun Kawauchi, president of the NPO “My Neighbor’s Kaigo,” points out that this mindset of nursing care = being by my parents’ side = filial piety is the biggest problem for business caregivers who struggle to balance work and nursing care.

“I understand and appreciate the sentiment. However, I believe it’s a mistake.

Being filial means fulfilling your parents’ wishes as much as possible. But the more you push yourself to achieve that, the more tired you become, and you lose the capacity to be kind. You might find yourself in such a difficult situation that you wish your parents wouldn’t wake up from their sleep. Is it really good caregiving to push yourself to the point of quitting your job? Moreover, can parents truly feel happy seeing their children sacrifice their work and their own families to prioritize caregiving?

For example, there are business caretakers who say, ‘Because there are no reliable caregiving services, I quit my job to be with them,’ or ‘I can’t leave my parent alone after they return from daycare, so I use shortened work hours.”


“Those in need of care do not wish to be watched over all day, and even from the perspective of the long-term care insurance system’s ‘support for independence,’ it’s not beneficial for the individual. Additionally, if someone is able to go to a daycare center, they should be able to stay alone at home afterward. Isn’t the feeling of ‘I have to be there’ more about alleviating one’s own anxieties rather than for the sake of the parent?”

In the first part, we introduced the case of Aina Nishizaki (pseudonym, 49 years old), who decided to quit her job to care for her mother, who had refused helpers, and continued her caregiving life by commuting between her own home and her parents’ home for about a year. As pointed out by Ms. Kawanochi, Ms. Nishizaki regrets that she lost her composure and couldn’t be kind to her mother as she prioritized caregiving.

Now, she shared something she’s come to understand a little.

“At that time, I thought I was doing what my mother wanted, so I didn’t understand why she was constantly complaining to me. But maybe what I was doing wasn’t what my mother wanted.

For example, something like this happened. A few months before she passed away, my mother frequently fell inside the house. One morning when I went to my parents’ house, I found her sitting on the kitchen floor with the faucet running. Seeing her like that, I thought being by her side was the right caregiving.

As I angrily prepared breakfast the next morning and left without acknowledging her protests of ‘There’s no need to make breakfast,’ I didn’t bother to think about the meaning behind my mother’s words.

Looking back now, maybe my mother didn’t care so much about preventing falls as she did about freely moving around her own house, even if it meant falling. And perhaps she wished to see me smiling rather than scowling.

But I couldn’t help but worry when I was close by. So now, I wonder if I should have physically distanced myself like my sister who lives separately, or if I should have had the resolve not to worry about anything and remain unfazed.”

What children should do is not direct caregiving, but professional assistance

Caring for someone can be challenging because each person requiring care has unique needs. What constitutes beneficial care for oneself, and what enables one to live authentically, may not always be apparent to the individual receiving care. That’s why we, as children, should understand the importance of professional expertise and an objective perspective.

In the “White Paper on Leaving the Workforce” conducted by Tonari no Kaigo in 2020, more than 60% of respondents answered “yes” to the question, “Taking care of a loved one by oneself is an act of filial piety” (Tonari no Kaigo, a non-profit organization, 2020). (from the “White Paper on Leaving the Nursing Care Workforce”)

Matching between care recipients and professionals is often left to chance. There’s a significant possibility of encountering care managers or helpers with insufficient experience or lack of consideration.

As a result, there are cases where children search for care managers until their parents are satisfied or decide to move to urban areas due to a shortage of day care services, according to Kawachi.

“I believe children should not bear responsibility for this. It’s the care recipient who lives in that area and receives support. How the individual accepts it, children can only silently observe.

The care for living authentically even with professionals requires trial and error. I’ve experienced it myself, and it’s incredibly challenging. Since they don’t open up from the start, you have to try various approaches until you find the right one.

Crucial in this process is family assistance. Caregivers don’t know the care recipient’s personality, habits, or their way of life. Gathering such information from family members, imagining their past and future lives, helps in understanding their motivation for sustaining life and reaching the necessary care. The process of reaching this understanding is also part of caregiving for the care recipient. In this regard, can we say that what children accomplish equals good caregiving?”


Children’s role should be assistance rather than direct caregiving. Their responsibility lies in providing appropriate information and arranging caregiving systems to enable their parents to live authentically.


The company’s caregiving leave system should be utilized not for providing care directly, but for setting up such systems.


“Many business caregivers initially use their paid leave to provide care when their parents need it, only applying for caregiving leave when they realize they need more time for caregiving. In other words, they are using the system for direct caregiving. This makes taking leave equal to continuing caregiving, leading to resignation. Therefore, caregiving leave should be utilized not for direct caregiving but for establishing comprehensive caregiving systems with professionals.”


Caregiving often begins suddenly. It’s essential to reset the mindset that “caregiving equals filial piety” while parents are still healthy. Find out the location of the “community comprehensive support center” and what kind of support they offer. 


“A simple phone call will suffice. Inquire about the available support in the area where your parents live. Just doing this will make it easier to consult them when needed. Additionally, if your workplace has a consultation service, it’s best to start there.”


Jun Kawanai, Representative Director of the NPO “Next to Care.” Born in 1980. Graduated from Sophia University, Department of Social Welfare, Faculty of Literature. After working in elderly home introduction services, a foreign consulting company, and as a caregiver in home care and facilities, founded the citizen group “Next to Care” in 2008 and became an NPO in 2014.

Click here to purchase Kawauchi’s book, “Watashitachi no Oyafuko Kaigo: Let’s Free Ourselves from the ‘Curse of Filial Piety ‘” (Nikkei BP).

  • Interview and text Keiko Tsuji

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