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Caring for an Elder and Working: a Balancing Act

By , 4:17 pm on

You’ve received the call at your office. Your mom will be coming home from the hospital and will need help. You’ve now entered a special group: family caregivers who are also working.  The veterans who have gone before will tell you, this can be quite a balancing act.  Whether you expect the call, or it is a surprise, you need help to establish balance. Your best tool kit includes a plan, negotiating skills, and maybe a little homework, too.

Be proactive

  • Talk to your company’s Human Resources department about available resources, such as
    • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for caregiver information and support.
    • Policies on family leave, telecommuting, flextime, and job sharing.
    • Check out the services available in your community
      • Aging Partners in Lincoln and ENOA (Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging) have tremendous resources
        • Wellness (nutrition, exercise, some basic medical services)
        • Financial planning
        • Senior centers and adult day services
        • Independent living support services
        • Care management options and referrals for private services
        • Help with transportation
  • What does your church offer? Sometimes they have volunteers to help with transportation or meal prep.

Share the Load

  • Gather the family:
    • Who can do what and when? Create a calendar.
    • Invite your elder’s medical team or other trusted advisors to be part of the meeting.
    • Establish routines for communication, including file and calendar sharing.
    • When friends offer to help, give them a specific request and a variety of dates to make it easier for them to actually be helpful.
    • Support groups: there is a group for any condition: Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, American Heart Association, etc. Contact our local chapters and ask for a list of support group options.
    • In-home care services: can feature whole-person wellness programs, care management and support for doctor visits, in addition to medication reminders, meal preparation, bathing, dressing, continence care, and transportation.
    • Respite care programs: sometimes these are available through grants via the Alzheimer’s Association and other such organizations.  Professional caregivers could also come to the elder’s home. A third option is a short stay at an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.

Remember personal balance

  • Schedule and keep appointments for yourself.
    • Doctor visits
    • Exercise
    • Respite
    • Sense of calm
      • Maintain spiritual health (your personal definition)
      • Connection with nature and people outside the world of caregiving for your elder.
      • Nurture your sources of joy.

Balance is possible, even if it isn’t easy. Population trends mean more and more of us will face these challenges; available resources will grow. We’ll keep you posted on what is new and useful.