Listen up all you working sons and daughters who are also caring for an aging parent…
What you accomplish day in and day out is so impressive. It’s also important. No, it’s INSPIRING! Too exhausted to feel like an inspiration? I hear you!
Caring for an aging parent is NOT for wusses!
The demands of being a working mom or dad have long been acknowledged, but I say – what about the balancing act of a working daughter or son? What of the daily juggle that involves trying to meet the needs of a spouse, a couple of kids under the age of 18, an aging parent and, oh yeah, a boss?! Piece of cake, right?
Ah…no. Not even close.
If you’re in the working family caregivers boat, please rest assured you’re not alone. AARP estimates that you’re sitting alongside about 35 million of your working caregiver peers, or 70% of the roughly 50 million Americans who are family caregivers.
But what does it take to balance work with family life and caregiving?
It takes stamina. And grit. In a recession it also takes a little bit of luck or divine favor. Oh, and it helps if you’re willing to neglect yourself and forgo vacations in favor of stockpiling paid time-off in case of a parental emergency.
So you like to take more than a two-minute shower or cook a meal that takes longer than 30 minutes when you finally do get home? Whoa! Think again there, buddy! Around here we call those things luxuries!
Still not feeling like an inspiration?? Okay, I’ll keep working on ya!
For now though, here are five tips to provide you with a much needed dose of caregiver support. And I can assure you that they’re not the ramblings of a 30-something blogger with no business offering advice. These lessons have been hard-learned by swimming with hundreds of caregivers like you and learning what works and what doesn’t when it comes to staying afloat.
They look deceptively simple, but don’t be fooled! Committing to some of these may be your toughest challenge yet.
1. Put your finger on what overwhelms you
When you’re juggling caregiving and working part or full-time, stress can come from all angles. It’s important to steal away every once in a while to get clear about what caregiving tasks you have the least energy for. This is part of knowing your limits and it will help you to pinpoint exactly what kind of assistance you need most.
2. Ask for what you need
This one takes practice, but it’s essential for a caregiver’s survival. A lot of caregivers I meet are angry with family members who want to know how the older adult is doing, but never lend a hand. If caregiving makes you feel like you’re drowning make no mistake: it’s time for action. The next time one of the family bystanders calls, tell them that mom is great but you could use some help. Be very straightforward as in: I’d love you to pick up her medications at the pharmacy later – can you do that? In my experience, specific requests are harder to say no to.
3. Be gentle with yourself
Guilt is a very common emotion among family caregivers. The majority of working people feel they could be doing more to help when many of them already use every spare evening, weekend, vacation and sick day they have tending to their parents. What’s more, many family caregivers continue to work so they can assist their parents financially at the risk of not having enough to fund their own retirements. The last thing they should do is beat themselves up.
4. Don’t forget to breathe
One of the first things I learned in the field of Social Work was that deep breathing has an instant and powerful effect on a person in distress. When you’re in the thick of it – phones ringing off the hook, boss in your ear about the report he needs by 3pm, home health aide calling to say that your dad didn’t take his medications again – the most helpful and healthful thing you can do is to put your feet on the floor, your hands on your belly and breathe deeply for several minutes. It doesn’t lessen the stress, but it better equips you to cope with it.
5. Make use of local resources like…
I know, I know. Who has time, right? But this is about making time and not for something useless, but for something useful – the chance to connect with others who understand where you are and maybe even where you’re going. That’s powerful stuff. Don’t underestimate it.
So let’s be honest. Caring for an aging parent can kick up some not so great feelings depending upon how great, or not so great, your childhood was. Look for counseling resources online or check with your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If you have health insurance sometime the best bet is to give a call to the number on the back of the card and ask for a mental health referral.
Respite care for your aging parent
If you aging parent requires a lot of assistance and you are heavily involved on a day-to-day basis, it’s essential that you know about respite and that you identify the resources in your area that offer it.
A Geriatric Care Manager in your area
This option will cost you, but many people find that it’s well worth it to have professional expertise on their side. You can read more about this burgeoning field here.
Am I leaving out other good tips? What have been some of the things that have helped you manage the care of an aging parent while working? Let me know in the comments below or get in touch!