Thanks to Caitlin for providing this guest post full of tips to balance work and caregiving for elderly parents.
Being a career woman is hard enough as it is. You’ve probably spent the first couple of years at work battling unique challenges to prove your worth. You’ve likely had fewer leadership opportunities than your male coworkers too. You’ve even made personal sacrifices for progress.
And just when you think you’re on a roll, something hits you. Your parents are no longer young and able. For the first time in life, they need your help, instead of things being the other way around. What will you do?
Of course, you won’t turn your back on them. But how will that affect your career path? No one is saying it’s going to be easy, but balancing a demanding career with the needs of older parents is possible. Here are a few tips that will help you juggle life.
Want to balance work and caregiving? Get your priorities straight
Between family, aging parents, and work, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Instead of trying to tackle each issue as it rushes toward you, instead step back and take a moment to assess what must be done daily, weekly, and monthly
Also write down all the errands and activities to do, regardless of whether they concern your parents, family, or work. A few examples are:
- Doctor’s appointments for your folks
- Work meetings
- Your kids’ after-school activities
If some of these events overlap, then you’ll need to prioritize them. Determine what you absolutely have to do on your own and what can be done with someone else’s help.
This method will make logistics significantly easier. By creating a schedule to follow, you’ll already have half of the work done.
Let your employer know
Whether you want it to or not, caring for aging parents will affect your productivity at work. Hiding this responsibility from your employer will lead to nothing good.
Remember, your boss is just as human as you. They probably had or will have similar problems in the future.
See if you can adjust your work hours or work at home on certain days. Of course, don’t forget to mention your contribution and dedication to the company.
It would also be useful to speak to HR to see if there are your insurance plan or company benefits can cover any assistance options. You may have an Employee Assistance Program or personal days for family emergencies, for example.
In different countries, there are different versions of the Family Medical Leave Act, which can help you address these matters without the fear of losing your job.
Good communication is key
Depending on your mother and father’s ages and medical conditions, you can and must have the talk with them about the best way to care for them. They are still the people who raised you and probably have their own wishes and thoughts on how they should be taken care of.
This talk might be challenging if a parent has dementia. That’s where these communication methods come in handy.
See which degree of independence your folks need and what they can handle. Maybe they just need your help for one or two days a week and can still live independently. Or perhaps they need you solely to take them to the doctor when they have an appointment as they don’t drive anymore.
Also, determine if your parents have any benefits. For example, if they belong to The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), then they can get better and cheaper healthcare, as well as discounts for medical alert systems, which are very useful if you can’t spend 24 hours a day with them.
Having this kind of a safety alarm will give your parents a sense of control and independence. At the same time, you will feel much more at peace while at work.
Ask for help to balance work and caregiving
Trying to do everything on your own is perhaps the biggest mistake in situations like this one. It’s a recipe for personal burnout and also might not provide your mom and dad with the best care possible as you have career obligations that take time away from them.
Therefore, if you have siblings, look for how you can share the chores. If you’re an only child, on the other hand, finding help can be hard, but it’s not impossible.
You can ask the neighbors to check on your parents every now and then, for instance. Close relatives can also take turns visiting your parents or taking them to the doctor.
If you’re not close enough with your relatives to feel comfortable asking them for a favor, offer something in return. Two examples are:
- A home-cooked meal
- Housesitting when they need it
Unfortunately, you won’t always be able to find someone who is willing enough to help or has enough time to do it. In these cases, you should consider hired care.
While this solution will take a toll on your budget, it can be useful in multiple ways. Most importantly, professional caregivers usually have experience with various health conditions. They know how to handle and communicate with seniors too, including those battling dementia.
Finally, when trying to balance work and caregiving of family, you must not forget to find time for yourself. Life stages like this one can be stressful, and they can affect your health.
To keep you as strong as possible, make sure you get enough sleep and physical activity. Also, although it will be difficult to maintain a social life, don’t give up on it entirely. You can’t help anyone if you are feeling burned out and ill.
About today’s writer
Caitlin is a bookworm and recreational dancer. She is also a medical student in love with science in all its forms. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and Universe, Caitlin is researching and writing about various health-related and well-being related topics.
She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu, and hiking. To see what Caitlin is up to next, find her on Twitter.