For America's aging baby boomers and their progeny, these numbers only emphasize what's become a widely accepted fact of life: As our population gets older and lives longer, we will need more resources directed toward long-term elder care. "The first big issue for baby boomers was educating our children," says TIME writer Cathy Booth. "Now it's taking care of our parents. And not only are we caring for our parents today, but soon enough we'll need someone to take care of us." It's not clear just who that will be, but there is sure to be stepped-up pressure on the public purse to make better provisions for the elderly. "Increasingly, the government is going to have to take responsibility for our aging population," says Booth. And that will happen, she adds, but not overnight. "Eventually, we'll see a mix of government and private caregivers."
There are many things to be gained from taking care of elderly relatives, but a great career may not be one of them. A new study from the National Center for Women and Aging at Brandeis University and the National Alliance for Caregivers indicates that two thirds of people who act as caregivers for elderly relatives lose out on promotions, pay raises and training opportunities. Many study participants, the majority of whom were women, reported leaving work early, arriving late and missing meetings in order to fulfill duties of their second "job."