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Coronavirus' Impact on Gen X Caregivers
For the past year, Jessica Johnson has been juggling caregiving responsibilities for her 12-year-old daughter, who suffers from mental illness, and her in-laws, who have chronic health conditions. Like many Gen Xers, this 45-year-old stay-at-home mother already felt squeezed by the competing needs of growing children and aging parents. Then the coronavirus pandemic plunged the country into virtual lockdown.
Now Johnson is sheltering at home in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters, and trying to figure out how to care for her in-laws in Texas; her mother-in-law is recovering from back surgery, and her father-in-law struggles to treat his diabetes and heart disease. “We're trying to hold it together,” she says. “But it's really frightening."
While Americans scramble to stay safe and make sense of an uncertain landscape, Johnson and others like her find themselves in a challenging position, squeezed with caregiving responsibilities on both sides. Gen Xers — Americans born between 1965 and 1980 — are already more likely to be caregivers than those who belong to other generations. The average caregiver of an older adult is a 49-year-old working woman who provides 20 hours of unpaid work each week in caring for her mother, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. With the average age of motherhood rising, women in their late 40s and early 50s are more likely to have children still at home. Add coronavirus to the mix, and the stresses mount.