There’s a reason why women don’t earn as much as men, and discrimination isn’t the cause. It stems from a female’s cultural role as a caregiver. In fact, 81 percent of people who tend to a family member in the home are women. Unsurprisingly, most of them are mothers and wives, but daughters provide 29% of that care, compared to the 18% sons provide. The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates a woman may lose up to $324,000 in salary and benefits over her life when she stops work to assume these familial duties. (“Assisted Living,” by Nina Liss-Schultz, Mother Jones, Sept/October, 2018, pg.43)
The rising number of elderly who want to age in their homes will do nothing to alter this trend. “By 2030, the country will have roughly 26 million more senior citizens than it did in 2015.” By the same year, the number of people over the age of 85 will have doubled. (Ibid, pg. 41.)
Unfortunately, studies indicate caregivers experience stresses that can leave them with physical and mental damage. Worse, the jobs are poorly paid and offer little self-esteem. Many unskilled workers who used to earn their living as home health caregivers have shifted to the fast-food industry. There, they enjoy regular hours, a basic minimum wage and, in a growing number of cases, health coverage. (Ibid pg. 41.)
Medical professionals see this shift with alarm and consider it a national health concern. Soon the imbalance between supply and demand will make home help unavailable and unaffordable to many. Some elderly people in need of care could face charges as high as $41,600 a year. (Ibid, pg. 41.)
Unfortunately, talk of a state or national tax to provide caregivers a living wage always meets with vigorous opposition. While that wrangling continues, the best plan for most of us may be to live a short, happy life.
(First published 9/14/18)