Dear working daughter,
March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements, highlight and applaud where important gains are being made, and take a stance to call out inequality while working to forge positive action.
Let’s start with the celebration: Working daughter, I celebrate YOU. You – caring for another human being, while trying to earn a living, raise a family, and do all that you do – you are a true heroine. I know it doesn’t feel like that for you. Family caregivers are an invisible army. Collectively you provide an estimated 34 billion hours of care, worth a whopping $470 billion. Your work is unpaid and often unnoticed, but your contribution is tremendous.
You are a lifeline for the person you care for. You administer medications, prepare meals, care for wounds, manage incontinence and navigate dementia. Most likely you’ve had no training and receive little to no guidance. You are family, friend, confidant, social network, chauffer, appointment scheduler, grocery shopper, accountant, housekeeper and nurse, all rolled into one.
You are a linchpin for the medical community providing ongoing care at home, filling in for an overburdened system. Whereas certified nursing assistants are not qualified to treat wounds or administer injections at home, you often have no choice. Whereas, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, half of primary care physicians report they do not feel adequately prepared to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, you have no choice. Whereas professional administrators have not been able to improve the patient discharge process, 80 percent of you receive less than 24 hours’ notice when a family member is sent home from the hospital and into your care.
Next, let’s look at where important gains are being made. You, working daughter, are making history. It may not feel like it to you, but you are forging a new path and paving a better way forward for the women, and men, who will follow you. It isn’t easy. Just like working women in the 1970s pushed to overcome some of the challenges of balancing work and home responsibilities – the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, access to birth control increased, women pursued more education and planned for careers, you too are part of an historically significant group of working women who are figuring out today’s work life challenge. So much of the focus on women and work has been related to childcare; now the conversation must be expanded to eldercare.
Right now, 10,000 people are turning 65 every day and more people are living to 100 than ever before. Meanwhile, aging increases the risk of chronic diseases like dementia, heart disease and cancer. As a society, we have not yet figured out how to support people for century-long lives. Until we do, their social, emotional, medical and housing needs fall to family – to you. Plus, we don’t have the infrastructure to care for our aging citizens. Since COVID, roughly 15 percent of the nursing home workforce is gone and the home care industry needs an additional 450,000 home health care aides by 2025 to keep up with demand.
Meanwhile, on the work front, there are significantly more dual earner couples today than there were in the 70s which means it’s likely those couples are balancing work and eldercare. Today, 1 in 6 workers are caring for an adult family member. While more people are living longer and require more help from family, our workplaces have barely acknowledged the issue. Companies are slow to support workers with parents in the ways they are supporting workers who are parents.
That’s why this feels so hard and why you are so tired. But please know this: the work you do and the challenges you are overcoming are making a difference – for your family and for future families. And while I know that reality can’t ease your immediate struggles, I want you to know that you are seen. You are strong. You are significant. You are making an impact.
And lastly, calling out inequality while working to forge positive action: that’s part of our mission at Working Daughter. I was in your shoes. I cared for my two parents, and my husband, while struggling to earn my paycheck and find time for my children. And now, I work for you. Working Daughter will continue to advocate for workplace policies like flexible schedules, paid family leave, employee assistance programs and eldercare referrals and subsidiaries, to help caregiving employees balance competing roles as workers and daughters. We will push for critical legislation to provide much needed support for family caregivers and the people they care for. We will advocate for fair wages and workplace benefits for professional caregivers so that they can care for their own families while they care for ours.
And in the meantime, working daughter, I celebrate you – on International Women’s Day and every day.