TASK FORCE ON AGING & FAMILIES ILLUMINATES “SANDWICH GENERATION” CAREGIVING CRISIS
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging and Families (TFAF) and the Democratic Women’s Caucus held a roundtable to highlight the “Sandwich Generation” caregiving crisis, including the lack of physical and financial support for those caring for children and aging parents at the same time. Task Force Vice Chair Pressley, Co-Chair Schakowsky and Co-Chair Matsui were joined by Kim Parker, Director of Social Trends Research at Pew Research Center, Karen Lindsey Marshall, Director of Advocacy and Engagement at National Alliance for Caregiving and Jinell Paterson, a “Sandwich Generation” caregiver from Massachusetts.
TFAF VICE CHAIR REP. PRESSLEY: Today, we're raising the voices and experiences of the "Sandwich Generation," the many people who are caring both for children and an aging relative. This is complex, financially challenging, emotionally demanding care that is largely unpaid and unacknowledged. For many of us, we assume these caregiving roles without a second thought. When I cared for my own mother in her leukemia battle before she transitioned, it wasn't a question of if or how, in fact it wasn't a question at all. I wouldn't have been anywhere other than by her side, but that didn't make it any easier. Just because it is so deeply personal does not mean that tremendous sacrifice isn't required.
[…] A CDC study on caregiving during the pandemic found that nearly 60% of "Sandwich" caregivers experience passive, suicidal thoughts. We cannot afford to leave our caregivers behind in our recovery efforts and our investments in infrastructure. Our discussion today will further highlight why caregiving is critical infrastructure. We can no longer compartmentalize how we think about care. The caregivers in our communities live dynamic, intersectional lives and they deserve policy that is responsive to their experiences and their needs.
KIM PARKER, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: We found that 12% of parents with children younger than 18 are also regularly caring for an adult. We looked at how much time that translates into… On average, these caregivers are spending over two and a half hours a day in unpaid care and they spend less time on average in paid work than their counterparts who aren't in this caregiving role. And so that obviously has economic financial implications for them and their families as well.
Still thinking about caregiving, we did a survey in 2017 looking at the issue of paid family and medical leave in the US. What we found at that time was that 11% of all US workers said that in the past two years they had had to take time off from work, a significant amount of time, to care for an aging family member… About one in four say they were caring for a child of some age. And as we know, many Americans don't have access to paid family and medical leave through their employer. So this time off often results in significant wage losses for these workers and caregivers.
KAREN LINDSEY MARSHALL, NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR CAREGIVING: "Sandwich Generation" caregivers provide care on average of 22 hours per week to an adult, in addition to child care, and they often report difficulty finding affordable services to help them provide this care. One in five reported feeling financial strain as a result of caregiving and roughly a third also report a high level of emotional stress, with nearly half wanting more help or information about managing that stress.
[…] Congress passed needed Covid related legislation that provided some workplace protections to certain family caregivers, but in order to Build Back Better after the pandemic, family caregivers, including "Sandwich Generation" caregivers, need policies that protect their financial well-being, including benefits that will help them balance work and caregiving. Specifically, they need a permanent paid family and medical leave policy that is inclusive of all family caregivers across the lifespan. Congress can also alleviate challenges facing “Sandwich Generation” caregivers who struggle to balance care and work by strengthening the direct care workforce with creation of new and better jobs and also expanding access to home and community based services.
JINELL PATERSON, SANDWICH GENERATION CAREGIVER: I am an operating room assistant at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and my girls just turned 16. So far, my mother was diagnosed, maybe going on four years now, with dementia, so our life just turned real quickly. My daily challenges are like, making sure I split my time between work, my mother, my girls and how it has really, really changed for me is that there's so much to do. You go to work 40 hours a week, 10-hour days. When I leave work, I have to go home. Even though the CNA's are there, I still have to make sure that she's getting the proper care that she needs at the end of the day. So, I try to make sure I'm there. I make sure I get her to bed, make sure her meds are put out correctly, make sure she had dinner and find out her how her day went, any changes. And this is day to day. Some afternoons I have to leave work to get her groceries. Some afternoons we have to go pick up medication. And sometimes I wonder really, how do we get it done? But we do. We manage.
TFAF CO-CHAIR REP. SCHAKOWSKY: This is an important coalition, the two organizations, because you can't really separate the caregiving from a women's issue. We have called the recession a "she-cession" because it has really affected women so much more. There's a sociologist that I like to quote who said many countries have a safety net. The United States has women. And I think that is sad, but true, and that's what we're really talking about today, the burdens and, of course, the joy in some ways of caregiving, but the lack of support.
And so, I just want to say that both of our organizations, the Women's Caucus and the Task Force on Aging and Families, are going to be working to make sure that we pass legislation, including the Better Care Better Jobs Act. That's $400 billion that is going to go to home and community-based care… We need to have more individual help for home and family-based care givers, and we are determined that we're going to work on those issues.
TFAF CO-CHAIR REP. MATSUI: We all believe that families are critical. Women are, as Jan said, somewhat of a safety net… We all understand what it is to love our kids and love our parents and being caught in the middle and trying to do both at the same time. So as a Women's Caucus and Task Force on Aging & Families, we're trying to get engaged in a way which we really do effectively move along so we can really help the families and the women that we all love and care for… Home and community-based services are critical for reducing institutional care and related costs… As many of you know, Democrats have been working on legislation that carries forward President Biden's bold vision to expand access to high quality caregiving.
To watch the full roundtable, click here.
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