Sep 16, 2019
There are at least 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the U.S. And this number is increasing daily as Baby Boomers turn 70 at a rate of 10,000 per day. The majority of these caregivers are women.
Twenty percent of these caregivers also have children living at home. All these millions of women are doing a very big and very exhausting job that is necessary for society. And they are doing it not only without pay, but often at a loss of pay and benefits now and into the future. American families forgo at least 28.9 billion dollars per year in lost wages when they take time off to take care of their sick children or sick relatives, according a 2016 study.
So, who is going to take care of mom and dad when they get old? People with resources can live in assisted living places. The super rich can hire the help they need. But, the working class does not have money they can throw at this problem. And capitalism, all about making profits for the wealthy, offers no solutions.
Nursing homes cost at least $5,000 a month. Medicaid requires people to be impoverished in order to qualify. Which means that working class people who have worked their whole lives will have every bit of their money taken. The small amount of material wealth they have, like a house, will not be available for the next generation.
Many working-class women cannot quit their jobs to take care of their aging relatives. This takes a huge toll on women, and their families. Women who do quit their jobs to do this work also pay a heavy toll. The loss of prime earning years – which cannot be recovered, as well as the social isolation, can be crippling.
Caregivers also pay an enormous toll with their own health and longevity. Thirty percent of caregivers die before the people they care for do. Some studies show an even higher percentage. Illness that doesn’t lead to death is rampant, as well as depression, and auto-immune diseases are high on the list. Caregivers don’t find time to go to their own doctor because they are too busy or just plain sick of sitting in clinics with their loved ones. Or just too tired.
Part of the problem is that women feel like it’s only them and this is their private, personal problem that they are responsible for. And part of that way of thinking is even encouraged by the very nature of the way women get trapped in these situations. The work itself is isolating – no time to go out and see friends, for instance.
But the reality is that this is very much a social problem. It requires a social solution.
The fact that this burden of caregiving is not dealt with by any of the Democratic candidates or the Republicans is not an accident. Both parties defend the profits of the bosses. Both parties defend exploiting the unpaid labor of men and women as a way to increase the profits of the wealthy. Both defend and have participated in the dismantling of the social programs like Medicare and Medicaid that do exist.
The wealthy have money for when they get old because they stole it from what we produced. There is no money for us when we get old, no money to free women from this unpaid work because the wealthy hoard the wealth we produced or they use it to kill people in other countries. We don’t need their wars for their profit. We need the wealth we produce to work for us when we are old and can’t work anymore.
This society, the wealthiest in the world, pretends there is nothing that they can do to make it possible for the working class to get older without having to lose everything we worked for. This is a lie!
The only way out of this trap is for the working class to fight to take back what they have stolen from us – what is rightfully ours – the fruits of our labor. We need to build a different society. This one is broken beyond repair.