Daughterhood and Eldercare…..the Life/Balance Issue No One Acknowledges

Our sincere thanks to Carmel at CMK Home Care for this post.

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At 52, Mary Alice, a professional with an advanced degree, is finally reaping the rewards at work. Of course life is busy with three kids, a dog, a husband that travels for work, and upkeep of her suburban home. Fourteen-hour days are the norm. And just when she was thinking of taking a well-deserved vacation, her mom has fallen and broken her hip. Mary Alice’s mom, who until recently was a sprightly 84-year-old, has begun to slow down. While still living independently, she has become unsteady on her feet and forgetful. Now a week in hospital and three weeks of rehab lies ahead….and then what? How can she possibly care for her mom with her busy schedule? She knows her siblings will help if asked, but she also knows that she will be the one to lead the charge on her mom’s care. She needs professional help for her mom.

Jean, a 47-year-old single woman, is the primary caregiver for her mom, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.   Jean’s brother lives out of state and is not much involved in their mom’s care. Jean had reduced her hours at work so that she can accommodate her caregiving role. Every morning she visits her mom to help her get ready for the day, and then rushes to work. She has recently hired a wonderful Caregiver to visit her mom at lunchtime, to prepare lunch and ensure all is well. Jean returns in the evening to prepare dinner for her mom and get her back to bed. But she knows that this schedule cannot continue. Her mom is deteriorating and Jean needs a break. As she thinks about the months and years ahead, Jean knows that this is the time to increase the hours of help. For her sanity and for her mom’s needs.

Rose moved to California six years ago. She loves her life in sunny San Diego. But life back home has taken a turn for the worst. Rose’s dad has gotten a cancer diagnoses and is starting treatment. She has flown back three times already this month to be with him. As an only child and with no other family close by, Rose knows that her dad’s care needs will only increase but she knows that she cannot sustain this amount of travel. She has begun her search to find an eldercare company that will help her.

These are examples of the three main forms of caregiving that is prevalent with working daughters, or daughterhood, a term recently coined.

  1. Sharing the care with siblings which can be stressful and frustrating.
  2. The primary caregiver, which is exhausting.
  3. Caring from afar, which is fraught with worry and expense.

With over 40 million unpaid caregivers caring for a sick or frail elder in the US today, the impact it makes on their working lives has not been nearly reported or supported well enough. You can find many articles on childcare/work balance, but what about eldercare/work balance?   Daughters, and it most often falls on the daughter, are struggling to maintain a career that they worked so hard for or just hold down a job, to pay their bills, maintain health insurance and save for their own retirement, as well as taking on the full blown emotional/financial and hands on care of an aging parent. Now add children, a spouse, other family members, friends, hobbies, you-time and other life activities into the mix and you get a sense of the time squeeze these Sandwich Generationers are experiencing. Caregiving for an aging parent is isolating, stressful, frustrating and exhausting and must be acknowledged in the community, workplace and through legislation.

As a professional in the Aging Industry for nearly twenty years, I find the statistics below alarming. Speak to your employer about benefits that you may be eligible for through an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) which may allow working caregivers time off for senior care.

  • According to a 2014 study by the Administration on Aging (AoA), we are experiencing a Silver Tsunami; older adults aged 65+ numbered 46.2 million, the majority of whom say that they want to age in place.
  • 79% of family caregivers working full or part-time have missed work in the past 12 months; 31% have missed at least 7 days.
  • According to an AARP report, family caregivers (age 50 and older) who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, nearly $304,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime. These estimates range from $283,716 for men to $324,044 for women.

As daughters struggle through this difficult period of eldercare/life balance, they also wonder when is the right time to get the professional help that they need.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to make that phone call.

Ambulatory Has your loved one fallen recently? Is he/she unsteady or having difficulty walking? Have you noticed unexplained bruising?
Driving Have there been any recent accidents or near misses?
Eating Habits Is there outdated or little nutritious food in the cabinets or refrigerator?
Hygiene Has there been a discernible decline in his/her personal hygiene? Has housekeeping become a challenge?
Isolation Has he/she been reluctant to engage socially? Has he/she shown a loss of interest in favorite activities?
Mail Have bills gone unpaid or mail unopened?
Medications Have there been instances of mishandled medication?
Memory Has there been an increase in forgetfulness or confusion, or an increase in poor judgment?

Our sincere thanks to Carmel at CMK Home Care for this post. CMK Home Care is a non-medical elder care company serving Greater Boston, provides help, safety and companionship to elders in their place of residence, as well as tailored programs of support to family caregivers. They can be reached at 781 266-8985 or visit them on Facebook

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Author: Admin

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