As parents age, many adult children find themselves having to balance their own career with providing sufficient home care to their parents. In order to do this, priorities need to be set, choices have to be made, and open communication needs to be established both in the workplace and at home.
More woman have entered the workforce and established a career than in past generations, yet for many of them, providing at home care to aging parents so that their parents can remain in their homes for as long as possible is a burden which falls primarily to them as well. Men who are trying to care for aging relatives may not only experience the strain of this balancing act, but may also face difficulties related to cultural expectations regarding men’s involvement in the care of aging parents. Adult children with small children of their own to support and nurture whose parents begin to require even some additional care, face perhaps the most difficult balancing act of all.
There are several things for adult children to consider in handling this difficult balancing act with an employer:
Review responsibilities: Consider all responsibilities at work and what is expected in order for the company to be successful. Consider current responsibilities to the parent now and how they are likely to evolve in the future (i.e. moving to a smaller place, home care assistance, moving to assisted living or other institutional care). Consider any other responsibilities to other family members (spouse, minor children). Consider responsibilities to the caregiver him or herself, including his or her own health and physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Determine what is absolutely essential and what may be up for negotiation: Employers need to know when they can count on employees. Family members need to know when they can count on caregivers, especially if multiple people are involved in senior care. Spouse and children need to know when their spouse and mother will be available for them. Everyone needs to keep their own health and wellbeing in check so that they can be their best possible self for one other. Can a chance in schedule help? A temporary reduction in work hours? Are there any options to work from home that would alleviate some stress but still allow work to get done? If the situation is likely to improve in the future, would temporary family medical leave be an option?
Consider additional resources: Can financial sacrifices be made in order to hire a professional home caregiver? Are there other family, friends or community organizations that might be able to offer home care assistance? Is adult daycare an option?
Make a plan: After determining some negotiable items, a clear plan should be made which offers concrete proposals that address the following questions: How much time will be missed from work? When will time be made up? What kind of leave of absence will be both acceptable and helpful? How will company goals be accomplished with these accommodations? What sacrifices are being made at work, home and in providing care to the aging parent? How might the accommodations benefit the company in the long run?
Present the plan: In presenting the plan, it is important to be honest about the nature of the parent’s condition and exactly what is required. If a company is willing to be flexible, it is important that they are not continually asked for even greater flexibility (i.e. if they give an inch, don’t take a mile!)
By attempting to see things from the company’s perspective, presenting the situation openly and honestly instead of creating a trail of mysterious absences, and offering a concrete solution that shows how the company’s goals can be accomplished even as they offer accommodations, hopefully a mutually beneficial solution can be found that will benefit all involved.