Hey, the kids are almost all out of the house…now it’s OUR time…well maybe not. Phew, we’re out of diapers and baby monitors, now we can relax, get a good night’s sleep, “un-childproof” the house…well maybe not. Often, we now become the caretakers for an aging parent.
We are part of the “new and invisible workforce…15+ million unpaid and untrained family caregivers…spending, on average, 30 hours/week caring for aging relatives, resulting in an estimated $400 billion worth of annual unpaid work time.”(i) Most often, that caretaker is a “40-something woman, married, employed, caring for younger folks too.”(ii)
The challenges we face in our work lives as we care for our aging relatives are not so different from the challenges faced caring for children…emergencies – medical and otherwise, doctor’s appointments, services appointments, etc. As we perhaps didn’t feel supported for the kids, we also don’t feel supported in caring for our aging relatives either. This is an even larger problem as it impacts those who have kids and those who didn’t. (iii)
We are still grappling with universal availability of paid maternity and paternity leaves, paid leave to care for a sick and/or aging relative is a fairly recent need, but one that is likely to grow quickly.
Not only are we impacted financially by lost or reduced income as a result of unpaid time away from work, or reduced working hours, we are also spending more to financially support our parents. “According to the T. Rowe Price 2019 Parents, Kids & Money Survey, more than a third of parents with 8 to 14-year-old kids are also caring for an aging family member…68% report that their aging parent or relative is living with them. Nearly one-third of dual caregivers spend $3,000 or more a month caring for an aging parent or relative.” (iv)
This all takes its toll on our other relationships – spouses, kids, friends, professional, community, etc. We experience depression, financial hardship, work, and relationship stresses.
Many states have implemented programs to help adult children caregivers cope with many of the stresses, check with AARP, your local Elder Affairs Bureau or other state agencies. Things we can do for ourselves…ask for help, make sure we continue to engage in our other relationships and communities (spouse, friends, civic groups, religious groups, gardening clubs, hiking clubs, etc.), eat well, try and get sufficient sleep, be active (for ourselves). We take a lot out of our tanks in caregiving, we need to remember to put something back in.
Lastly, we can “make lemonade” from this. Seeing how our parents age, may be a pretty good indication of how we may age. What plans/processes/arrangements do we want in place for ourselves. (v)
(ii) America Magazine – https://www.americamagazine.org/2019/07/15/paid-family-leave-elderly-care-seniors-aging
(iii) US News & World Report – https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-07-08/too-often-caring-for-aging-parent-means-trouble-at-work
(v) Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/in-helping-elderly-parents-caregivers-get-a-peek-at-their-futures–and-are-inspired-to-plan-for-old-age/2019/11/25/0e4b7740-0d78-11ea-8397-a955cd542d00_story.html