Today I was interviewing a potential paralegal candidate for my firm. I noticed on her resume that she had a lapse of employment for around six months this last year and asked her about the void. It turned out that she had to leave her employment of eight (8) years to care for her aging parents who lived in St. Louis, Mo. Her father ended up dying during that time; she took care of his arrangements then moved her mother to Michigan. It turned out that her mother’s medical needs just did not fit into a working schedule, so she decided to stay off work until mom settled in to her new environment. Subsequently, she died four months later. After settling her mother’s affairs she decided it was time for her to get back into the workforce.
Her situation got me thinking about an article I read recently about the “Crisis of Working Daughters.” According to a recent article with the same title, a MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving joint study calculated that women lose an average of $324,044 in compensation due to caregiving. Caregiving has an impact on a woman’s career—caregiving hits women in their mid-40’s - just around the time their earning potential starts to wane and dangerously close to the age when they may not be able to reenter the work force if they leave, many believing that the job market is not promising for women 50 and older. The question that needs to be asked is how can these same women who are expected to live into their mid-80’s, outliving men by about two years, afford their own care later in life if they can’t save at midlife while they are caring for someone else? Anne Tumlinson, a healthcare policy analyst and consultant who also runs Daughterhood.org, a website for caregivers, says, “Caring for an aging parent is much more significant life passage than we give it credit for being. When you are caring for a child it doesn’t threaten your identity. 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 requires a high amount of emotional engagement that only a family member can provide. It’s not a situation where economically advantaged are spared. Lots of accomplished women saddled with elder care duties drop out –it’s just too much. The end result which must be acknowledged by Americans is that family caregiving is not just about taking care of children until they are out of the nest, but boomerangs back on the shoulders of adult children when their parents reach advanced age and need help that they are not willing to take from strangers. What do you think?