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How To Balance Work, Family, and Eldercare

If you're a member of the "sandwich generation" those Baby Boomers that are pursuing careers, raising their family and are tasked with caring for their aging parents, you understand how hard it is to balance it all.

Today, more than ever before, care giving is a daily factor in the lives of millions of families across the country. As the population continues to age, there will be more families taking care of an older adult.

It’s been estimated that one in four households are juggling the demands of caring for an aging relative while raising their own families and pursuing a career. Another part of the equation is the loss of productivity to businesses, which is estimated at more than $2,000 per employee or up to a total of $33 billion annually for caregivers on the whole.

Consider these statistics:

  • We may be living longer, thanks to medical advances, but many aging individuals are coping with age-related illnesses that include arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, cardiac issues and limited mobility.
  • Baby Boomers may be the primary caregivers now, but in the future they may find themselves in need of care.
  • Because of recent economic shifts households may both partners in the workforce balancing work, home life and caring for an aging relative becomes even more of a challenge.
  • Caring for an aging relative not only impacts the individual and the family, it also impacts the workforce, as the employee needs to leave work to care for his or her aging parent.

When it comes to the level of care a family caregiver offers, it varies wildly from personal hygiene (bathing, going to the bathroom, getting dressed in the morning) to help with everyday tasks such as preparing meals, taking care of bill paying, coordinating health services, making certain medications are being taken properly to housekeeping and yard work to shopping for groceries and driving them to doctor’s appointments. When you look at the list of tasks the caregiver may have on his plate, it can almost become a second job.

Caregivers also find themselves in poor health, which could be a result of the stress of caring for an aging relative, and trying to manage their careers and their own family obligations. They may see themselves passed over for promotions because of lost work time and some may eventually even need to quit their jobs to care for a relative full time.

What can be done to help the caregiver balance the burden they are facing? Here are some steps that can be taken and items that should be researched:

  • Know that there are resources in almost every community that can help the caregiver cope.
  • You need to make a detailed list of all the duties you undertake on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
  • Make another list of items that you may be able to delegate to other family members or even to professional in-home caregivers.
  • Take a reasoned look at any diminished capacity your relative may be experiencing and determine whether the level of care needed is still attainable by family members.
  • Does the family have a budget for in-home care? In-home care may not be covered by traditional insurance plans so a critical look at the family funds is necessary.
  • What steps can be taken to make the home more elderly friendly? Making changes to the home itself may lessen the burden on caregivers; for example refurbishing the bathroom to be more elder friendly may lessen the need for a caregiver to help with bathing and other bathroom functions.

What resources are available to help with eldercare? There are many including:

  • An informal arrangement with friends, family or church groups to help with in home care.
  • Formal arrangements with a professional in-home healthcare provider.
  • Advanced level of care that may include an assisted living facility or a nursing home setting.
  • Adult day care centers may be the ideal situation. If your relative is able to spend the day with his peers and be involved in physical activities, it could lessen the stress of caregiving and will also provide for companionship and socialization for your aging relative.
  • Moving the relative into the family home may be an option and could cut down on commuting and the need for the upkeep on two houses. Be aware though, that moving a relative into your family home brings with it myriad adjustments for all involved.

Prior to any life-changing decisions being made, a family meeting could be beneficial in coming up with ways to address the health and care issues of your aging relative. From delegating tasks to determining the level of care needed to making decisions on what the next steps will be when they can no longer live independently are issues that should be discussed prior to an emergency situation when decisions could be more emotionally driven. Consider too the value in equipping your relative’s home with a medical alert device. Wearing, and having 24/7/365 access to emergency medical care at the push of a button could relieve anxiety and allow your relative to age in place and help relieve some of the caregiver burden.