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Working Women as Family Caregivers

Ethel Percy Andrus

Ethel Percy Andrus

This Women’s History Month I want to honor Ethel Percy Andrus, founder of AARP. Ethel was many things — a teacher, the first woman principal of a high school in California, a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was also a family caregiver.

Like me and many other Americans, Ethel cared for both her mother and father. And when her mother, Lucretia, required more intense care, Ethel left the workforce to be there 24/7 for her. She wrote:

“On the way to school, I determined that I could give to her the loving care she had given to my father during his blindness; I knew I could bring her back, and so that day I resigned to my chiefs’ protest, ‘You can’t do this to us.’ And my answer, ‘My mother needs me now.’ ”

 Ethel’s story is similar to that of many family caregivers who juggle full- or part-time jobs while caring for a parent, spouse or other loved one. They often have to change work schedules, go in late or leave early, cut back hours — or, or like Ethel, leave the workforce entirely.

For women, family caregiving can often be even more emotionally, physically and financially draining.

Today, a higher percentage of women care for older loved ones while on the job. And, when they leave the workforce, the cost is greater. Here are the numbers:

 

Fighting for caregivers
That’s why, in state legislatures across the country, AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions — to  help all family caregivers balance work and caregiving responsibilities so they don’t face losing pay, or even losing  their jobs. This flexibility may come through state improvements to the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or to employers’ paid and/or unpaid leave policies.

Just last week Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed the Healthy Workplaces Bill into law, requiring all employers to provide limited paid sick leave to full-time workers. Other states across the country are hard at work, too:


To all the incredible women caring for loved ones, thank you for all that you do.

If you’re a family caregiver, you’re not alone.

 


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

Follow Elaine on Twitter: @RoamTheDomes