Can You Handle Parental Caregiving?
Now that you have a handle on all of your dad's needs, you need to size up a few things before you take the caregiving plunge.
If you are like most caregivers, you're a woman who has a job outside of the home and a husband, and you're between 40 to 60 years old. And some of you are pulling triple duty: One out of four caregivers has children at home. Congrats! You get to play a lot of roles in life: Mom, wife, daughter, and employee. Adding the caregiving role of a dependent parent to the mix will affect the balance you might have achieved with your family and work. So before the scales go completely out of whack, let's figure out how to tip the scales in your favor.
Your Work Life
Your employer may offer other benefits, such as helping you pay for adult day care. You may be able to work out a flexible schedule, such as working four 10-hour days. Maybe you could stretch vacation time into long weekends, or share your job with a new Mom who also wants to work flexible hours. Many employers also allow their employees to work at home (“telecommute”) at least part of the work week.
Before you bring Dad home to live with you, take the time to talk to your employer. It's not that you're seeking permission—your employer can actually help you. Many large companies have programs that can assist you in finding services to help you take care of your parent and keep your job humming along. Several companies contract with employers to provide services (most often called “Employee Assistance Programs” (EAP) or “Work/Life” programs). Sometimes the employee directly talks with the contractor and its consultants; in other instances, the employee deals with the employer's Human Resources (HR) office or EAP. Ask your HR or EAP staff if this contracted assistance is available.
If your workplace doesn't cover the service, visit the Web sites of the following companies to get an idea of the kinds of help they offer workers. Be sure to share this information with your company:
- Child and Elder Care Insights, Inc., offers two trademarked databases to assist employees—CHILDBASE and ELDERBASE. Employees can access the databases by calling the company or by going online. Consultants can provide individualized assistance in a variety of ways: by phone, by responding to an e-mail request, and by virtual communication online. Contact them at 216-356-2900 or www.carereports.com.
- Dependent Care Connection, Inc., offers counseling, referral, and educational service to employees, both by phone and online. Dependent Care Connection claims 24-hour access to information, uses an employee personal profile to deliver individualized information to the employee, and organizes Web information by specific life events to help employees find information quickly. Contact them at 1-800-873-4636 or www.dcclifecare.com.
- Ceridian offers the trademarked LifeWorks Employee Resource Program to help employees find solutions to work and personal issues. Employees and their dependents can get help with personal problems, child and elder care resources, managing stress and change, legal and financial issues, and locating help in their own communities. Contact them at 1-800-788-1949 (Ceridian) or 1-800-635-0606 (LifeWorks), or www.ceridianperformance.com.
Be up front with your boss, letting him or her know how you plan to manage your work. Go on the offensive and present a plan that shows how you can meet your job objectives and meet your new caregiving demands. Don't let missed meetings, coming in late, or making long-distance calls on company time be the reason you finally let the boss know why you've fallen behind.
No matter how noble it is that you're taking care of your parent, you do have a responsibility to your coworkers in getting your job done. And you have the right to both enjoy and further your career. The only way you can achieve all of this is to honestly assess what you can humanly do to care for your dad and still maintain your job and other commitments. To do this you'll need to enlist help (paid and family members), identify tasks and activities that someone else can do or that you can take a break from, and set some boundaries where family members respect your time at work. In other words, ditch your Wonder Woman cape. You can't do it all. Nor should you!
More on: Aging Parents
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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