How to Balance Work and Caregiving for Elderly ParentsCaring for elderly parents can be time consuming and difficult, especially if you're trying to juggle this responsibility with your regular full-time job. And, with more people living longer these days, American families are experiencing greater impacts related to elder care.
Although more adult children are finding themselves in the role of elder caregiver, many aging parents require a level of care that may seem quite challenging.
The good news is that by planning ahead and using available resources, you'll find it easier to balance both career and caregiving. Here are some tips to make caring for elderly parents simpler and less time consuming.
Get Support from SiblingsAlthough one adult child often assumes the role of primary caregiver for an elderly parent, siblings should be called upon for help.
Dr. Steven Stern specializes in aging and disability at the University of Virginia. He advises, "A family needs to think about how to help support the sibling in charge of a parent, either with help or compensation of some sort, to help defray the cost that they are incurring."
Siblings can provide support by assisting with errands, paperwork, scheduled visits, and managing finances.
Understand the Finances
Gaining an overall financial picture of caring for elderly parents can be overwhelming in the beginning. Rather than waiting until the need arises, it's a good idea to understand your parents' financial situation in advance. Without this knowledge, many caregivers may wonder if they need to reduce their work hours or even quit their jobs to care for their parents, while others just find themselves unprepared for the financial impact.
A reputable financial planner can help you understand your new financial responsibilities while caring for elderly parents. Gaining an understanding of relevant tax laws may provide important guidance, for example. If you are providing over half the expense of a parent's food, rent, or nursing home care, the parent may be included as a dependent on your tax return.
Consider Professional Help
Being a primary caregiver doesn't have to be a "24/7" responsibility. Consider building in breaks by exploring adult day care centers and senior care centers in your community. Although hiring an in-home caregiver can be financially challenging, siblings and extended family members may be able to help provide relief by scheduling regular visits.
More long-term options can also be provided by specialized nursing homes. Some nursing homes, such as Generations Healthcare, offer short-term stays so that caregivers can take a break. It's important for caregivers to realize that this is a chance to recharge, unwind from stress, and look after their own health, too.
Take Family Leave
In general, family leave programs offer an employee time off for the birth and care of a newborn, placement of a foster or adopted child with an employee, caring for an immediate family member (child, spouse, or parent) with a serious health condition, or for medical leave if an employee can't work due to a serious health condition.
At the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid but job-protected leave annually. Accrued paid leave may be used to cover some or all FMLA time taken.
California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have additional paid family leave programs, and New York is expected to by 2018. Be sure to ask about and take advantage of every option you may be entitled to at your workplace.
Discuss Options in Advance
"Sit down with everyone together, and talk about what you want to do, whether it's a financial issue or geographical issue," advises Dr. Neal Cutler, Dean of the American Institute of Financial Gerontology.
Cutler is also the executive director of the Center on Aging for the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodlawn Hills, California. He continues, "Anticipate that these are decisions and choices that are best made before a crisis happens."
This advice may serve you and your family very well when an elderly parent reaches out for help. Every family situation is unique, of course, but a family meeting held in advance can lay out responsibilities, designate supporters and providers, and identify helpful resources.
If an advance family meeting did not take place, or for whatever reason is/was not possible, there are other options for finding help. Many community programs are available, such as caregiver support programs, respite care programs, and estate-planning programs. Even if you aren't able to prepare in advance, take time out to contact your community leaders.