Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Double whammy

I think a generational care crisis is looming.

As we live longer and have our children later, many are going to be caring for their own ageing parents at the same time as their young infants.

I use my own situation as an example. As an only child of an older divorced mother, I am now caring for her through Alzheimer’s at the same time as having my own young family and returning to work.

I am lucky that my mother can afford good care, but I am still alone in dealing with what all of that entails.  And finding it a particular challenge to balance the (frankly similar) needs of my babies with that of my demented mother.

Take a simple everyday task such as getting dressed. My mother and my son both struggle with buttons and gloves. The difference is that my 5 year old son is learning a new skill, but my 75 year old mum is un-learning everyday skills everyday.

My mother was 39 when she had me – seen as practically geriatric in the 1970’s  - she had a successful career, was having fun, and wanted to delay as long as possible.  She told me she was 29 for years, so I wouldn’t give away her real age away!

By contrast I was actually 29 when I got pregnant, and felt like a gymslip mum in my middle-class NCT class. Everyone else was in their mid to late 30’s with established careers. I felt like I was just starting out. 

In just a generation my mother and I had both stretched the boundaries of our class defined childbearing age. She was at the upper age by far and I was definitely at the lower age.  And in doing so we have created a rather unfortunate double whammy.

There must be many others in similar situations, and as our population ages and live longer, it will only get worse.  Also exacerbated by family break up and fewer siblings in smaller families, which means less people to share the load.

I venture that the burden will fall more heavily on woman- the traditional ‘carers’ - and will have a double impact on career progression. Just as we are sorting out childcare to enable us to go back to work we will have to negotiate  care for our parents. That’s why I support flexible working so strongly – it’s not just parents who have caring responsibilities. Employers should recognise that.  And as a society we need to get better at supporting carers, before the crisis hits.

No comments:

Post a Comment