Navigating caregiving efforts of older adults while workingFeatured

We live in uncertain times. Are we still in a pandemic? Is hybrid or remote work here to stay? These are only a couple of questions occupying our thoughts. As a result, we haven't had time to reflect on what the pandemic has taught us. Well, today is a great day to start. I'll even kick off the process for us. :-)

Uncertainty seems to be the norm

There are different levels of uncertainty. The earlier part of the pandemic in 2020 gave me flashbacks of the only other time I was at a complete loss in my life (major uncertainty).

I became my mother's caregiver at the age of 21 and I didn't stop until she passed away in June of 2019. You'd think I'd have it in hand after the first few years of caregiving, but that isn't the nature of illness or caregiving. I worked full-time throughout this time. I had no map outlining what I needed to know or any idea what to expect. And everything seemed out of my control. Many people could not or did not want to understand what I was juggling.

I’m not alone in the world of family caregiving. According to AARP, 53 million Americans call themselves family caregivers. Many more of us are caregivers, but we may not think of ourselves in that way. And, if we think of Covid's impact, that number has increased as people of all ages find themselves in the caregiving role for the first time.

On September 6th, NPR shared an international study stating from January 2020 to May 2022 nearly 8 million children aged 18 and under lost a parent or primary caregiver. The number is higher when grandparents are included. Caregiving continues to be a journey filled with uncertainty.

While all this change makes our heads spin, we must remember our power

Although we live in a perpetual state of uncertainty, we aren’t completely powerless. Preparation is an accessible and overlooked form of self-care. We might not think of it when it comes to the health of our grandparents, parents, and even ourselves, but the reality is it’s one of our greatest untapped resources.

As a result of managing my mother’s care, I’ve taken care of all the medical and legal paperwork for my husband and I. Doing takes a weight off our shoulders. You can start the process by completing health proxy paperwork and additional estate paperwork. Trust me, it is easier to have these forms completed when everyone is healthy.

The Great Resignation is still underway. Many are making career decisions based on flexibility to care for loved ones. We must find roles that fulfill, challenge, and offer us an environment that promotes employee well-being. This is the time to ask yourself what you need and act upon it. You can be certain there are companies looking for your skills and expertise. Change is good. A new report states, “Those who changed jobs got a median raise of 16.1%. That’s nearly double the median change in yearly pay for those who stayed in their jobs: 7.6%.”

We’re all juggling a few more things than we might like, but . . .

Preparation in the face of uncertainty is not only a possibility, but preparation is also a must for life today. This is the time for action. Here are a few suggestions for getting started.

  • Initiate what could be hard conversations about health with your parents, grandparents, and anyone else you care about. These discussions might seem difficult, but they remove some of the complexity that might be encountered later down the road.
  • Review your employee benefits. What provisions are available if you must take time to care for a loved one? What happens if you fall ill? Are there employee resources groups to support you? If not, what does it take to start one? And, if you’re an employer, take an audit of the benefits and support you have for employees. This is a good time to partner with providers to offer benefits that meet today’s needs.
  • If you’re negotiating a job offer, be open to other perks outside of your salary.

There has never been a better opportunity to design your ideal working conditions than today. This doesn’t apply to all jobs or all industries, but there are organizations that offer flex time, home office expenses, remote work and more. Take stock of what you need and ask.

  • Keep your emergency finances top of mind. As our economy bounces between stable and rocky, it is difficult for many to think about saving or setting aside money. However, starting small is a step forward. Because we don’t know what awaits us, developing the habit of filling our emergency accounts is a positive step forward. And employers can help by featuring benefits that support proactive planning for now and the future through partnerships with 401K and financial providers.

I’m passionate about changing the narrative for family caregivers of seniors. If you’d like to chat, please reach out to me [email protected].

Thank you so much for sharing this post Erna! I would also like to recommend Atul Gawande's book Being Mortal as a good framework for how to think through and talk through those difficult end-of-life questions, and best if done way before reaching that point.
@brianarani, thank you and that is a fantastic book! I fully agree that talking before things get there is best.
Your article perfectly reflects the challenges I face as a caregiver to my mom who is in her 80s. She has several health challenges and lives 4 hours away. I manage all of her affairs and appointments with the help of paid caregivers that I secured. However juggling her life, and my life as a mom & wife always seems to put me in a time deficit.
@sheiladst thank you for sharing and for all you do. It's important that we keep the conversation going about this topic to elevate its visibility as we do our best to support one another.
@sheiladst, I see why you take credit for the work you put into it. Curious, what systems help you juggle your mom's & your affairs?
I need better systems. I use my calendar function and an excel spreadsheet to keep track of current issues/contractors. I’ve tried apps like ianacare but I need a system. If you have a recommendation, please share.
Today is National Caregivers Day! I love the way you phrased it Preparation is self care. This reminds me to give myself grace and credit for the systems that I have put in place to take care of my family.
@sheiladst as a matter of fact, tomorrow February 18th is Caregiver Appreciation Day! Caregivers please do something that supports your own wellbeing in honor of that!
Thank you @Ema, I appreciate your taking the time to write and share this. It's a keeper. In case anyone needs this: I follow professional organizer Suzanna Kaye; she has many resources, classes, etc. This is a organized binder if you are a caretaker for elderly parents. She has much more at her website: p.s. the price goes up after Saturday, I believe.
@ritapalanjian, thanks for sharing!
@ritapalanjian, thanks for sharing this resource. How have Suzanna’s products & services helped you?
@helengriffinjr I am your classic ADHD brain and bad habits. I need structure and systems to get things done. There are many different ways that Suzanna has helped. The life binder that I mentioned is a great resource to keep everything your life and home things in one space. It’s a huge binder that I still have to update and organize. The most helpful to me is for monthky subscribers; 2 times a month we meet via zoom for 2 hours. This is the time that I focus on projects that I have to get done. For example, the last meetup, I used that time to organize my taxes. Everyone on zoom works on individual project. She also shares additional organizational things. If you have discipline and motivation to get things done, this may not an exciting event because you know you can accomplish things. Some of us need accountability. Hope this helps.
I’m reading a book right now called How To Be Sick, by Toni Bernhard. I think it’s great for caregivers too.
That's a great title, thanks for sharing!
Curious, what you learned from the book? Why did you think of caregivers?
The author gets a virus out of nowhere that never goes away, so she becomes chronically ill. In addition to talking about how she learns to live with a chronic illness, the book is also about how her husband who now becomes her caretaker also learns to live with her illness.
Several similarities in what you've described. Though in my case, my husband is partially disabled, and we have two (of 3) sons who have significant caregiving needs. I'll be honest, preparing for our future has been a nagging worry for a long time, and I have taken some small steps, but your post reminded me I can do more.
Thank you for sharing @katmoody. I know the preparation is hard, but remember it counts as self care.
@katmoody, what’s on your mind? What stole your attention/focus from your future?
Thanks for your post Erna. I've been caring for my parents for the past 3 years and doing my best to juggle it without getting derailed. On a plus note I've become a much better chef.
@KasiaAdvisor, what’s your favorite recipe? How do you keep from getting derailed while juggling it all?
Thanks for this positive post. As our parents are aging and being the siblings nearby and stable, I’m faced with preparing for them but my husband is now disabled with a progressive disease. While our parents have prepared for what they want I need to do this work with my husband who is not ready. Many difficult conversations needed as he was discharged this past week from a 5 day stay at a hospital. The books referenced in the comments and this post are helping me prepare to have them. Thank you. And a little tip for those that may need to use a support team for an extended time, IANACare is a great free app with another amazing woman who started it.
Thanks for sharing @erinallen!
@erinallen, I am glad your husband is back home. I wish him a speedy recovery.What is making it tough to have these conversations?
He just turned 50 and his doctors are talking about pace makers and trac for breathing. These are things he thinks of as someone older needing as they reach their end of life and he sees them as dimensioning his quality of life instead of extending it. Those are his decisions obviously but combined with the mental issues of his disease, he gets frustrated with the conversation and doesn’t want to have them. It’s very confusing for doctors who aren’t familiar with the disease.