Working Mothers and Memory

Hook Law News | Nov 13, 2020 | Letha Sgritta McDowell

It seems that as if no time in history have we been more focused on health than in 2020. Daily, we are receiving discouraging news about COVID, the symptoms of COVID, the risks for COVID and other factors that may increase mortality. This comes while many Americans are still battling cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline and memory loss such as that which occurs from Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published in Neurology followed almost 6,200 women, all over the age of 55, for approximately 12 years showing that working mothers in the workforce early and into middle-ages experienced slower rates of memory loss over time as compared to mothers who were not in the workforce. In fact, the results seem fairly staggering. The study showed that “between age 60 and 70, for example, the rate of decline among nonworking mothers was more than 50% greater, versus mothers who’d worked outside the home.”

Even more striking was that the results were the same regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and marital status. Perhaps the most striking was that the results were the same for single working mothers. Often times, single working mothers have lower income and higher rates of stress than married women. Higher stress levels can then lead to higher blood pressure and heart disease which are risk factors to many other conditions such as cancer.

The article does mention that it is important to remember that the results are averages. Individuals who are in a high risk group may not be at higher risk and vice versa. While not conclusive, the study may indicate that cognitive health and risk factors are entirely different from traditional disease risk factors. Since women make up approximately 47% of the US workforce and 70% of women with children under the age of 18 work at least part time, this study provides some good news. It appears that the mental exercise that comes with working can provide positive long term benefits.

2020 has been dominated by frightening and, occasionally depressing, health news. For many working mothers this has compounded stress associated with home schooling (often when one or both parents were deemed “essential”), and now back to school with the occasional last-minute school closing because of COVID. Although we try to limit the number of stresses in our lives, this study seems to agree that some stress is actually good stress indicating that perhaps there is some benefit to the mental stress working mothers endure.

Ask Dan: Dogs and Dementia?

Hook Law Center: Hi Dan! I want to know if dogs get dementia or have cognitive impairment like people do?

Dan: Hi Reader! While we may not want to think about it, dogs can experience cognitive impairment the way people do and it is often associated with aging just like people. You may notice that your dog doesn’t interact with people the same way he/she used to and may seem to not recognize people that once were familiar. In addition, you may also notice a loss of trained behaviors that can include potty training. If you think your senior pet has symptoms of memory loss, it is important to visit your vet. He or she may suggest a change in their diet to include anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, just like people! Similar to aging adults, aging dogs may also benefit from both routine and cognitive stimulation as well.

Letha Sgritta McDowell

Attorney, Shareholder, CELA
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
[email protected]

Letha Sgritta McDowell is a Shareholder of Hook Law practicing in the areas of estate planning, elder law, special needs planning, estate and trust administration, asset protection planning, long-term care planning, personal injury settlement consulting, guardianships & conservatorships, and tax law. Ms. McDowell’s clients range from high-net-worth individuals with over $75 million in net worth to families with limited assets.

Ms. McDowell is a past President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and was named as a Fellow of the prestigious American College of Trusts and Estates Council (“ACTEC”) in 2020. She is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation (“CELA”) and Board Certified as a specialist in Elder Law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Furthermore, McDowell is accredited to prepare and prosecute claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ms. McDowell is currently the chair of NAELA’s strategic planning committee, a member of the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Chapter of NAELA, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. She is the former Chair of the North Carolina State Bar’s Elder Law Specialization Committee and is the former Editor-in-Chief of “Gray Matters”, the newsletter for the Elder Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. She is a consultant for InterActive Legal and has worked on several law and technology initiatives including IBM’s Watson project. Along with her experience practicing as an attorney, she has dedicated much of her time writing for national publications including, but not limited to: Wolters Kluwer,, the NAELA Journal, Trust & Estates Magazine and many more.

Practice Areas

  • Elder Law
  • Estate & Trust Administration
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection Planning
  • Long-Term Care Planning
  • Special Needs Planning
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