Anyone who has cared for an aging, infirm parent knows how incredibly difficult it can be. Caregiving takes a huge toll, physically, financially and emotionally. We’ve talked with hundreds of AgingOptions clients and radio listeners and have heard many tearful stories about the overwhelming challenge of being a caregiver. That’s why we wanted to share this powerful article from The Atlantic magazine, published last year but still extremely timely, which paints a troubling picture of the long-term crisis being faced by today’s working women who are also caregivers for aging parents.
The article is titled, “The Crisis Facing America’s Working Daughters.” It says quite bluntly that “the troubles of women with aging parents are unseen and widely ignored.” It also says that society’s willful ignorance of this growing problem will have long-term social and financial consequences for all of us.
The Atlantic article starts by pointing out that there seem to be limitless resources available today to help working mothers, but almost none to aid the 44 million unpaid eldercare providers in the United States, most of them women. Because the need to care for aging parents typically hits a woman in her 40’s – her peak earning years – she may find herself forced by the demands of her new role to take a less demanding job, cut back her hours or quit altogether. The article quotes a MetLife study which calculates that women lose an average of over $324,000 in compensation due to the demands of unpaid caregiving – earnings which will in most cases never be recovered.
This financial challenge is compounded when you figure that the caregiver who has to reduce her earnings in her 40’s may find it difficult if not impossible to reenter the workforce five or ten years later when Mom or Dad has passed away. “These same women are expected to live well into their mid-80s,” says The Atlantic, “and outlive (by about two years) the average man. How will they afford their own care later in life if they can’t save for it at midlife while they are caring for someone else?”
As significant as the financial challenge can be, it’s the emotional impact that can hit daughters the hardest when they become caregivers. “People tend to think that caregiving is mainly about chores like food shopping,” one expert says in the article. But in fact it’s “the intimate nature of some of the tasks and the general role reversal between parent and child” that truly come as something of a shock. One healthcare policy analyst quoted by The Atlantic emphasizes the great challenge of caring for an aging parent. “When you are caring for a child, it doesn’t threaten your identity,” she says, “because that’s what parents do. But when you are a daughter, you are cared for. You turn to your parents for refuge. When they seek refuge from you it shakes your identity.” Eldercare, say the experts, requires a degree of emotional involvement that can feel relentless and draining, far more than caring for a child.
While the article in The Atlantic doesn’t offer any specific solutions, it does sound a clarion call: as we talk about the competing demands of work and family, we need to consider the urgent needs of working daughters. “The focus must not just be on the need for maternity leave or even parental leave, but family leave—and other accommodations such as flex time, mentoring, and reentry-assistance programs—that will enable workers to care for their aging parents without their lives falling apart,” the magazine concludes.
Here at AgingOptions we want to offer our services, whatever your circumstances. If you or someone you care about is burdened with the care of a senior loved one, we encourage you to contact us. With our many years of professional experience and our carefully selected resource network, we can assist you as you evaluate your caregiving situation and help you discover options you may not realize existed. Sometimes as you explore an unfamiliar path it helps to have a professional guide walking alongside you.
In fact, that approach – serving as your professional guide – is the same one we use for the entire process of retirement planning. We call this strategy LifePlanning. Your own individual LifePlan becomes your blueprint, guiding you as you create the retirement lifestyle you’ve always hoped for. Best of all, the process of creating your LifePlan doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You can find out more about this exciting breakthrough in retirement planning by attending one of our popular LifePlanning Seminars. These events are absolutely free – but the information you’ll gain is priceless. You’ll discover how all the facets of your retirement plan – financial, legal, housing, medical and family – fit together into one seamless LifePlan. To find out dates and times, and to register online for an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar, simply click here, or call us during working hours. We’ll look forward to meeting you soon!
(originally reported at www.theatlantic.com)