Women face a host of challenges throughout their career, but caring for ageing parents, for most, is an unexpected one.
The women’s liberation movement opened the door to a huge growth of mothers in the workforce over the last few decades. But its care for ageing parents that is going to be the next big thing for career women – driven by the slow tsunami of an ageing population.
The availability of formal child care and after school care have enabled mothers to overcome barriers to pursuing a career. But just when the years of raising children are almost over, and the upper rungs of the corporate ladder are within sight, an often unexpected caring responsibility arrives: caring for ageing parents.
Elder care is an issue we all will face. Not everyone choses to have children, but everyone has parents. The number of elderly people needing care is not small. Those aged over 85 years (420,300 in 2012) are going to double in the next 20 years.
People who have elder care responsibilities feel less supervisory support for their needs compared to workers with child care responsibilities, according to University of Rhode Island researchers presenting at a recent Work and Family Researchers Network Conference.
Their research also shows that workers caring for ageing parents also report higher levels of stress, overwork and work-life conflict than workers caring for children.
Caring for an ageing parent differs from raising children in that it is less predictable because a parent can suddenly need a lot of assistance over a longer period of time.
Modern medicine and medical innovations are helping people live into their 80s but inevitably, they will need support when their health starts to decline.
The ABS says that 1 in 3 workers are caring for ageing parents, and that figure is growing, with 45 per cent of workers anticipating taking on elder care responsibilities in the next five years.
Overwhelmingly, it is women who bear the cost of caring for their parents as they age.