Are you a member of the “Sandwich Generation?”
This is a term used to describe the millions of women who act as caregivers to their elderly parents, while still raising children and holding down a job. And they need help.
Lost wages and lost jobs
“There are currently 44 million unpaid eldercare providers in the United States according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the majority are women,” writes Liz O’Donnell in an Atlantic article titled “The Crisis Facing America’s Working Daughters.”
It’s a crisis because there are very little support programs for these women, who often need to either leave their jobs, take time off, or switch duties at work to make time for their role as caregiver.
“As a result, they suffer loss of wages and risk losing job-related benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings, and Social Security benefits,” writes O’Donnell, herself a working daughter. “In fact, a study from MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving calculated women lose an average $324,044 in compensation due to caregiving.”
This is significant, as it’s happening mainly to women in their mid-40s at a time when their earning potential and future job prospects have begun to diminish. That’s money those women – most of whom will live well into their 80s – could save for their retirement.
The emotional strain of caring for older parents
The burden caregivers feel can be emotional as well as financial. Having the traditional parent/child relationship turned on its head can be difficult. And guilt can become an issue when daughters try to seek outside help only to have it rejected by parents who only want to deal with their children.
“That guilt is exacerbated by the societal expectations women feel to be a dutiful daughter,” writes O’Donnell, who also covered this topic in a piece for the family concierge service Envoy. “For example, the results of a stock photography search for eldercare turns up dozens of images of adult daughters, and only a handful of images of adult sons. Caregiving is still largely considered women’s work.”
What can be done?
This is a big problem, but not an insurmountable one. Jody Smith, writing on the website EmpowHER, offers these solutions:
- Speak up if other family members aren’t helping out. Let them know the cost of your care-giving - financial, emotional or otherwise. “You may not be comfortable with this,” Smith writes, “but it is reasonable, and it is right.”
- If acting as caregiver has become a financial burden, it’s possible to work with an elder law attorney to create a caregiver contract that provides for compensation, which can come from monthly payments, or a larger share of the inheritance.
- Let your siblings know how they can help. Even if they don’t live nearby, our connected world allows them to pitch in.
Medical alert systems help both at home and on the go, with fall-detection technology to alert family members and first responders in case of an emergency.
And if you’re concerned that a loved one isn’t taking their medication on time, a medication dispenser can help by automatically dispensing a dose to patients, then notifying a data center. If the patient does not take their medication within a set amount of time, the device notifies the caregiver via text message, email or phone.
If you’re seeking a medical alert system or medication dispensers in the Philadelphia area, turn to Marx Medical. We’ve spent the last 45 years providing caregivers and their families with the tools to ease their burden. Contact us today to learn more.