A snapshot of family caregivers in the United States in 2015 shows that of the 44 million elder caregivers in our nation, 75 percent are employed. That means these caregivers are trying to balance the physical aspects of caring for an elder while practicing self-care; managing work, home and community activities; family; and weeding through the administrative side of caring for a loved one (legal and financial matters, research on your loved one’s condition, coordination of services, end-of-life planning, etc.). It's a juggling act!
Tired yet? You are not alone. There are so many of us (yes, that's me, too), and the numbers are growing every day. So, what can be done?
Please allow me to suggest a couple of things that have worked well for me. I work full-time and care for my father, who lives with my husband and me, and my mother, who is in a skilled nursing facility.
First of all, I realized that it's not all up to me. I don't have to do it all, and neither do you. I've enlisted help from my sister, from Aging True, from a home health agency and a local social worker, even though I used to be one! (It really is harder with your own loved ones.) Seek help. Contact family and friends to help, and create a calendar of who is going to provide assistance. I like this online calendar that helps you create your care community.) Reach out to the Caregiver Coalition if you don’t know where to start. We can guide you.
Be open with your supervisor at work. Most employers are aware that caring for an aging parent can be emotionally and physically draining and that you have to do some of their care during work hours. Many companies are now offering basic elder care benefits such as referrals to care managers, support through their Employee Assistance Program and time off when needed to care for your loved one by utilizing the Family Medical Leave Act. I often tell people, “Elder care is becoming the child care of the eighties in our nation.” Ask what benefits your company offers.
Remember the importance of creating time for yourself. Carve out an hour for yourself each day. You have to do things that revitalize you and give you joy, at least some part of every day. That may mean saying no to some of the extra activities you may get invited to, or even saying no to your loved one. It is okay, really. Give priority to the things you can do and like to do. I like to escape and read a good book. What do you like to do? Please do it, so that you make it through this role, whole and healthy.