The way my mom imagined it, midlife was going to be great: counting down days until retirement, spending winters in Florida and checking off destinations on her bucket list. But it hasn’t turned out that way.
Instead of the joys of living the snowbird life, she’s saddled with stress, guilt and the challenges of caring for my grandmother, who is 89 and dealing with dementia.
She isn’t alone.
We found that midlife, generally considered to encompass the ages of 40 to 65, has become a time of crisis. But it’s not the kind of crisis that exists in popular imagination–when parents, with their kids out of the house, feel compelled to make up for lost time and relive their glory days.
And a trophy wife? Forget that.
It can be best described as the “big squeeze” – a period during which middle-aged adults are increasingly confronted with the impossible choice of deciding how to split their time and money between themselves, their parents and their kids.
Insufficient family leave policies force middle-aged adults to decide between maximizing their earning potential or caring for an aging parent. Of those who were working full-time while caregiving more than 21 hours a week for an aging parent, 25% took reduced work hours or accepted a less demanding position.
But there are also fewer employment opportunities, and young adults are having a tougher time securing basic ne, like health insurance. Together, these trends have led to more anxiety and depression among middle-aged parents, who fear their kids might never have the same opportunities they did.
Longer lives, fewer opportunities
Why is this squeeze happening now?
Options to care for aging parents in need range from in-home by oneself or with the help of home health aides to assisted living and nursing home facilities. Costs vary across the type of care, but overall costs are continually on the rise.
Meanwhile, the adult children of middle-aged Americans are still reeling from the Great Recession of 2008. A tepid labor market combined with student loan debt has left grown adult children struggling to find stable, long-term employment, and they’ve delayed buying a house and starting a family.
Six states and the District of Columbia have paid family leave policies, which include up to 12 weeks of paid time off and wage replacement at 50% to 80% of one’s salary. But it’s often those who cannot afford to take time off or accept a pay decrease who end up as caregivers.
More financial risk
Although midlife often marks a high point for earnings and represents the peak of decision-making abilities, middle-aged adults are less equipped than you might think to assume midlife’s new challenges and burdens.
What can be done?
Workplace and policy changes can alleviate their struggles.
These programs – which range from workshops on understanding dementia to tutorials on self-care – don’t help with costs, but they can ease the emotional burden.
As for broader policy, the U.S.
can look to Europe for ideas on how to address paid family leave. European nations have generous family leave policies that include long periods of paid time off following childbirth or for caregiving.
This article is republished from The Conversation under license. Read the original article.