As pandemic restrictions lift and people return to in-person work and school, child care has been a major focus. But an important Twitter thread points out that caregiving responsibilities don’t only include raising kids. Family caregivers and those who work with older adults have also weathered major changes and increased challenges throughout the past two years, and they’re using social media to share the impact of senior care on their families and the many ways that a lack of support and resources disproportionately affects women.
“I would like to remind everyone that while child care is important to a gender equitable future, so is elder care,” writes Sarah Odell, an educator and feminist scholar, on Twitter. “Millennials’ parents are aging rapidly, and women end up with the majority of that burden as well. Gender inclusive policy includes all care work.”
An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. serve as family caregivers, and a 2020 report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that 61% of today’s family caregivers are women. Though the Biden administration has put forth plans to fund support for aging seniors and senior caregivers, so far, those plans have not made it through Congress. That leaves many caregivers juggling the demands of full-time work, child care and senior care, with little to no help from their employers or the federal government.
Responses to Odell’s tweet show the impact this issue has on real people, particularly the women who end up carrying more than their fair share of the caregiving responsibilities.
“Since stopping being a midwife, I spend a lot of time in assisted living reassuring (almost always) women that it’s okay to take a breath or a day off, etc.,” one person writes. “I do my best to take care of their family so they can take a break. It’s so so hard to be the daughter.”
“Mom’s only 54, but [I] had to (and wanted to) take over a month off of work to help her through her transplant,” adds another Twitter user. “Only way to pay our bills was to rent out our apartment to complete strangers.”
Though Millennials are just starting to face these hardships, many also point out that a lack of social support and options for senior care has been a problem for several generations.
“Hi, Gen X here. Sole caregiver for my 87-year-old mom,” one person writes. “We’re up to our eyeballs in bills from her two stints in subacute rehab over the past two and a half years. I can’t afford help at $200 a day (or more). Oh, and she has excellent insurance, but neither that nor Medicare cover squat.”
“I have now been the primary caretaker for a friend, my mom, brother and dad,” one person says. “I’m 71, and don’t think I can do it again.”
The pandemic had a major impact on senior care. According to the Care.com 2021 Senior Care Outlook Survey, 67% of adult children say the type of care they prefer for their aging loved one has shifted as a result of the pandemic, and many families are increasingly looking to provide home care for their loved ones. The labor of finding quality care or caring for a loved one yourself, as well as managing and financing care is a significant undertaking for families.
The aging population in the U.S. is expected to include over 74 million people by 2030. Additionally, it’s estimated that around 70% of aging adults will need assistance with dressing, hygiene, mobility, finances, medications, housekeeping and other daily living tasks at some point in their lives. Without assistance and support from government agencies, employers and insurance providers, families may face an uphill battle in ensuring that they can provide the kind of care their aging loved ones need and deserve.
While there is no single solution to this growing problem, many in Odell’s Twitter thread encouraged early planning to head off as many hurdles as possible.
As one person offers, “I implore everyone to research long term care and have these discussions with aging parents and friends. Like anything else, more often than not, your care depends on how much money you have. Family advocacy is extremely important for elders. Prepare now.”