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Millennials Struggling to Care for Aging Baby Boomer Parents Call for Better Paid Leave

Millennials Struggling to Care for Aging Baby Boomer Parents Call for Better Paid Leave
From TIME - March 19, 2018

When Oniqa Moonsammy, 33, brought her uncle home from the hospital in early February following his stroke late last year, she planned to help her mother care for the 62-year-old as he regained his strength, figured out how to brush his own teeth again and managed his medications. But when they opened the door to the Brooklyn, N.Y., home her uncle shared with his father, Moonsammy saw her grandfather slumped in a chair. He, too, was having a severe stroke.

Moonsammy used to work five days a week as a hostess at a restaurant in Brooklyn and often spent time with her boyfriend or went to bars with friends. Now her life revolves largely around caring for her family. Shes cut back to four days at the restaurant and spends two days helping her grandfather at his rehab nursing home. She spends the remaining day taking care of her uncle. It kills me that I cant help more, because it puts more stress on my mom, who also has ailments, Moonsammy says.

In other countries, a young professional like Moonsammy might take a leave of absence from work and return to the office once the relative was safely cared for. But the U.S. is the only highly industrialized country that does not have a national policy offering paid family leave. While some states have started to propose policies on their own, 46 states still leave the decision up to employers. So far, that has not worked. Just 15% of workers across the country have access to paid family leave through their employers, and roughly 40% dont even have access to job-protected unpaid leave through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

While Moonsammy loves her family and enjoys listening to her grandfathers jokes and stories, the heavy caregiving load is already wearing on her own finances and physical health. And her experience is becoming more common, too. As the Baby Boomers age, a growing number of millennials are being called upon to take care of aging family members. Nearly 25% of the 43 million adult caregivers in the U.S. are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to a report by the AARP. Though many millennials face crushing student loan debt, uncertain job prospects and lower wages than previous generations, 86% of adults ages 18 to 29 told the Pew Research Center they view it as their responsibility to financially help aging parents. But many are struggling to balance these new duties with their own careers.

Its been 25 years since the passage of the FMLA, and advocates say the time for comprehensive paid family leave in the U.S. has arrived. While Democrats have historically been more enthusiastic about the issue, some conservatives have embraced the topic. Ivanka Trump pushed the President to include six weeks of paid parental leave in his budget proposal. The Republican tax bill in December included a tax credit for companies that offer paid family leave. And Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Joni Ernst have been discussing a plan that would allow people to draw on Social Security benefits to fund paid leave and then delay their retirement checks. A bill has not yet been introduced, but Ernst told TIME the group is working with White House to find a path forward on the issue.

As a working mother and a grandmother, I believe our policies must reflect the evolving needs of our workforce and reduce barriers that pose challenges to parents balancing families and work, she said in a statement. Thats why I am encouraged to work to create a path forward for a voluntary, budget-neutral paid leave program rather than impose a new entitlement or mandate.

But despite this emerging bipartisan support for the idea that families need time to deal with medical crises, bond with new babies and recover from pregnancy, there is no real consensus on how to offer this at the national level.

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