Millions of professional women in American face an all-too-common predicament when it comes to balancing career goals and family needs. In many cases, just as these women reach the peak of their careers, their parents begin to require more constant daily care and attention—and it’s typically the daughters who are expected to become primary caregivers. While some families can afford to pay for a live-in caregiver, or simply move their aging parent into a nursing home, which can also be expensive, many simply cannot afford either of these options. In some cases, they don’t want to move their loved one into a care facility. Then, the responsibility of caregiving must fall to a family member, as Mom or Dad must simply must receive care and monitoring.
As your parent’s child, your first instinct might be to drop everything, quit your job, and move sometimes halfway across the country to be with your parent and make sure that they have everything they need. This is a decision, however, that should not be made rashly, and can have serious consequences. The fact is, if you cannot afford to pay a caregiver, the chances that you cannot afford to quit your job are high.
The only remaining solution is to balance both. While this may seem like an impossibility—and it is difficult, as caregiving for an elderly parent and keeping your career is functionally the same as having two full-time jobs—sometimes there’s no other solution.
Here are four suggestions to help you as you juggle work and caregiving:
1. Use the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for caregiving while working
The FMLA can be a huge blessing for struggling caregivers. If you have worked for an employer with 50 or more employees for at least 1,250 hours of the past 12 months, you can take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for a parent with a serious health condition. These days also don’t have to be consecutive, so you can use them to take your parent to periodic doctor’s appointments if necessary.
Also, some employers offer other caregiver-specific benefits, like additional unpaid time off or even elder care support. So, don’t hesitate to ask your employer what else they may be able to offer you, whatever your situation.
2. Change your work hours to accommodate caregiving responsibilities
If your job is at all flexible, consider adjusting your work hours to mesh better with your senior loved one’s needs. Maybe you could work 6-2 instead of 9-5, in order to always be able to work in a doctor’s appointment in the afternoons, or to pick Mom up from her day program at 3:00 pm. Or, if you can coordinate work schedules with your spouse so that someone is always at home, so much the better. Many jobs also offer the ability to telecommute or work from home for a small number of hours each week, so this could be a possibility to explore.
3. Plan ahead and seek support for working caregivers
It can be overwhelming to face the prospect of returning from your full-time job, only to face an additional unpaid full-time job coordinating care for a family member all by yourself. But, you can develop strategies for balancing your work and your life and seek resources for assistance in some areas. Whether it’s arranging for Mom to go to a senior program in the evenings, so you can have a few hours to yourself, or getting someone to help with light chores around the house during the day, there are smaller things that you can plan into your life that can make your job infinitely easier.
4. Don’t be too hard on yourself, make time for yourself between caregiving duties
Whether you have to hire help or ask someone else to step in for a bit to give yourself a break, make sure that you’re taking time for yourself throughout this whole process. As other family members to help so you can care for yourself, even if that just means getting the shopping done, reading a good book, or getting a haircut. You still have to make time to care for yourself, even as you care for someone else.
MIR Senior Care Management & Care Consultants is committed to providing support for caregivers. If you are struggling, we are here to help you with problem-solving from everything to recommendations for peer groups, care facilities and even suggestions for legal counsel. Contact us today for the support you need.