Caring for our aging parents isn’t easy. Acting as a caregiver can result in unwanted stress and can put a strain on your relationships and career. According to AARP, about 25.5 million Americans struggle to find work-life balance while caring for their aging parents. Though striking that balance isn’t easy, today we’re going to share some tips on how to find a routine that works for you.
1. Prioritize and Organize
There is a “six-step process” that can help you take control of your work-life balance:
- Assess your situation
- Learn about your available resources
- Weigh your options
- Implement your plan
- Look out for changing circumstances
- Modify your plan as needed
Between work, family, and aging parents, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Before you continue, take a moment to fully appreciate what needs to be done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Do your parents have regular doctor’s appointments? Do your children have after-school activities that you need to take them to? Write down these errands and activities, either on a notepad or on your computer. Visualizing everything you need to address allows you to move on to the next step: organization.
Creating a schedule to follow is a lot easier once you know what to prepare for. In today’s world of apps and messaging, it’s easier than ever to set reminders and keep everyone in the loop about what needs to be done. Remember to include all necessary, non-health related errands in your schedule: Designate Saturday morning as your time to grocery shop for your parents, for example, instead of going whenever you have the time. Take advantage of the many calendar apps that let you share appointments with other people’s calendars so they can help out when needed. (More on this later.)
2. Speak With Your Employer
While we all want to show our dedication to our job, sometimes work’s demands can affect our ability to check in with our aging parents. If you find yourself in this situation, talk with your employer and try to come up with a manageable solution. Can adjust your working hours so you can check on your parents in the morning or on your way home? Could you work from home? Before starting the discussion, have your responsibilities and contributions laid out in order to guide the discussion towards practical solutions.
Being prepared before walking into your supervisor’s office not only shows that you take your situation seriously, but also shows that you don’t want possible disruptions to affect your productivity.
It’s also worth speaking with an HR rep to get an understanding of what assistance options are available to you, either through your company benefits or your insurance plan. You might have personal days designated for family emergencies, or other resources through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Remember that there are also government-sanctioned programs like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) designed to help employees address family matters without fear of losing their job.
3. Reach Out to Family and Friends
Nobody says you have to care for your aging parents all on your own. This is one of the many myths that surround elder care. Reach out to your personal network for help with your parents. Considering asking your parents’ neighbors to check in during bad weather to make sure they’re alright. If you have siblings or other close relatives, ask them to take turns taking your parents to doctor’s appointments or on errands. If you’re uncomfortable asking for this type of help, offer something in return: maybe treat them to a home-cooked meal or offer to house sit for an upcoming vacation.
4. Find an Elder Caregiver
While you may be able to spread out the responsibility of caring for your parents between a few people, this may not be enough. Circumstances may change: if your parent suffers an injury or becomes less able to take care of themselves, it may be necessary to hire an elder caregiver. While you can reach out to a traditional agency to find you a caregiver, other companies like CareLinx and KindlyCare utilize the “sharing economy” model to match caregivers with those who need them. With these companies, you are in charge of interviewing and hiring caregivers, giving you flexibility while also ensuring caregivers are properly paid for their time.
5. Make Time for Yourself
There are many ways to go about maintaining your work life balance, but perhaps the most important is remembering to take care of yourself, too. Don’t neglect your own health; as much as you want to be there for your loved one, signs of exhaustion, colds, or other potential sickness will limit your ability to take proper care of them. Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Basic tips for living a healthy life, including proper sleep and healthy diet, shouldn’t be forgotten. To reduce the risk of burnout, take regular breaks at work and at home, whether that be eating lunch outside or going for an evening walk.
Speaking of burnout, there’s no shame in asking for extra help or some extended time off. Perhaps ask a family or friend to watch your loved one outside of their schedule so you can take a weekend vacation or spend an evening out with friends. Whatever you decide to do with your time off, try to talk about something other than caring for your loved one. But if you need to talk to someone who can help manage your stress, consider joining a support group. PBS explains there are online groups dedicated to people dealing with elder care, so don’t worry if there aren’t any local groups near you.
What tips do you have for maintaining a work-life balance when caring for aging parents? Let us know in the comments below.
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