Family leave. It isn't just for babies anymore. Babies — and the parents who needed job-protected leave to care for them — were in the spotlight when Congress debated legislation for the Family and Medical Leave Act in the 1980s. But today, care for an aging parent is the fastest-growing use of the law. A Religion News Service article reported that it jumped 50 percent from 1995 to 2000 and now tops care for an ill spouse and care for an ill child.
For years experts had predicted the surge in leaves for elder care. But its arrival was delayed by strides in the health of today's seniors.
"It's a trend that's only going to increase," says Deven McGraw, policy counsel for the National Partnership for Women and Families in Washington, D.C., noting that almost two-thirds of Americans under age 60 expect to be responsible for an elderly relative's care in the next 10 years.
More people should be taking advantage of the leave than are doing so, say elder care support group leaders. But many can't afford it. Most leaves are unpaid; the law's major benefit is job protection.
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