Were you working a full-time job when you became a family caregiver? Even if you were only working part-time, you added a lot of additional responsibility when you took on this role. Managing a job or career while being a family caregiver is much harder than it sounds. Simply putting in the same number of hours at work along with caring for an aging loved one is nearly impossible without a tremendous amount of preparation and planning.
Most family caregivers don’t have the luxury of easing into their new or expanded role. Usually they are thrust unexpectedly into a situation that demands their full availability and focus, with little time to make arrangements for reduced hours or extended leave from work. A gradual decline in your dad’s ability to live independently can be overlooked until suddenly the realization dawns on you or other family members that someone must step up and take charge. This situation can be tricky on several levels. Betsy and I have seen many families struggle with the tensions that arise when their aging loved one resists help and the family cannot come to agreement about how to address the needs while also keeping the peace.
Another frequent story we hear involves a sudden illness requiring hospitalization or rehab, or an accident that creates immediate and severe limitations on the older family member’s ability to manage independently. Care might be needed for a short time or for an extended period. Whether your situation crept up on you or happened quickly, the result is the same for the family caregiver. Decisions must be made quickly to free up time, address needs, and perhaps even learn new skills so the proper care is given.
If you think you will be a family caregiver to an aging family member in the future, you can take steps now that will help tremendously if and when events occur that require you to step into this responsibility.
First, you should talk with your mom, dad, or other older family members about how they would like to see this situation managed should they need care at some point in the future. If you don’t feel you have the relationship to approach this conversation, perhaps you can begin to build bridges that will make it easier in the future. If you are in a professional career, it would be a good idea to begin a conversation with your employer now and strategize how things might look if you needed to be away for several weeks or months. Find out if your workplace has any employee benefits that would cover hiring someone to provide care so you could continue with your work, or recommendations for home care agencies in the area. Learn about aging care options, costs, and payment strategies. Also, explore possibilities with friends and family who are local to your loved ones to ask if they might be able to help out in a pinch if you live at a distance.
The bottom line is that you need to think about how this might play out before something happens. And if you are already in the thick of it, I hope you are willing to share what has worked and what hasn’t worked for you during this season of your life.
Betsy and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about finding balance between your career and caregiving.