Tips for Balancing Your Career and Your Aging Parents

If you’re a middle-aged adult, chances are you find yourself in the “sandwich generation.” This term defines individuals in their 40s to 70s who find themselves caring for their children, caring for their aging parents and also balancing their careers. It’s a unique conundrum that speaks to the perfect storm of today’s reality.

“In previous generations, people tended to marry early and start raising a family right away,” says Devon Sicard, Executive Director of Bridges® at Pembroke, a memory care assisted living community in Pembroke, MA. “They also worked in an environment where you remained at a company for 40-plus years, retired at 65 with a gold watch and a pension and were able to live comfortably on savings and Social Security. Today, people are delaying parenting until their 30s or 40s, and very rarely stay at one company for their entire careers. Add to the fact that our life expectancy is increasing, and you have a generation that’s placed in a very unique position.”

According to AARP, finding work-life balance while caring for senior parents is something that 25.5 million Americans struggle with. A 2019 Home Instead survey states that 59 percent of working caregivers feel like they have to choose between being a good child and a good employee – a number that’s up from 47 percent in 2017.

“Being a caregiver for your aging parents can result in stress and strain on your career and relationships,” says Devon. As with anything related to caregiving, he says, it’s important to focus on the things you can control, give yourself grace for the things you can’t, and find time to take care of yourself along with everyone else.

“It goes back to the old airplane oxygen mask analogy,” she says. “You have to make sure your own mask is secure before you can help anyone else with theirs. In this case, this means making sure that you’re doing what you need to maintain your well being, which includes managing your career.”

Organize and prioritize.

When you look at all the things you have to do or take care of, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to figure out your priorities and organize your schedule to help you accomplish as much as possible while seeing where you can streamline or outsource tasks. Here are six steps that can help you take control and find a balance in work, life and caregiving:

  • Assess your situation. What are the realities of your situation? What things need to be done on a daily basis? A weekly basis? A monthly basis? Write down everything that needs to be accomplished – everything from doctor’s appointments to after-school activities to errands to work deadlines – and then organize these tasks into a schedule. By having everything laid out visually, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to organize your time and get a high-level picture of everything that has to be done and when.
  • Learn about your available resources. Are there community resources you can use to assist your parent, like meal delivery services, transportation services or adult day cares? What sort of responsibilities can you delegate at work? Are there friends who can help you shuttle kids to and from activities as needed?
  • Weigh your options. You obviously can’t do everything yourself, so figure out what can be let go or otherwise adjusted so you can focus on your top priorities. Can you hire a housekeeper to come in once a month to make sure your house is clean (or can you delegate it to your kids?).
  • Implement your plan. Notify appropriate parties and ask for assistance as available. Communication is key, so find ways to help disseminate information as smoothly and easily as possible. Some ideas: shared Google calendars, group text messages and email chains.
  • Look out for changing circumstances. Is your parent’s situation deteriorating and do they require additional assistance? Is one of your kids finally able to drive themselves and can they help manage shuttling and scheduling?
  • Modify your plan as needed. Remember that the best plans are always fluctuating and adapting to the new reality.

Speak to your employer. 

The old advice has always been to keep our personal lives and our work lives separate. However, that’s not really the case anymore – and in the event of caring for senior parents, it’s important to let your employer know the situation so you can work out a solution together. Most employers these days are open to flexible working schedules or working from home in order to accommodate situations just like yours. It’s best to come prepared with suggestions laid out in order to help guide a discussion to reasonable and attainable solutions.

It’s possible that you may have resources available through your work, whether through insurance or company benefits. Government-sanctioned programs like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are available for employees to help with family issues without worrying about job loss. Your employer may also have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It’s worth speaking with an HR representative to discover what options may be available.

Ask for help from friends and family. 

One of the biggest and most detrimental actions of adult children is trying to take on all the responsibility of caregiving. There’s no reason that you have to take care of everything yourself – in fact, there’s no way that you can. Reach out to your friends and family to get the assistance you need so that you’re not burning the candle at both ends. If your siblings are in town, ask them to help shuttle your parents to doctor’s appointments or run errands, for example. Help doesn’t have to come through physical action, either. Your brother could help manage the finances and other legal aspects of your parent’s care, or your friend can research different local resources and benefits that could help take some work off your plate. You may find that many of your friends or family members have gone through similar situations in the past, and have lots of helpful information or advice to provide. If you’re asking for assistance, be sure to have specifics in mind, which makes it much easier for people to agree.

Care for yourself, too. 

You have so much going on that it may seem like caring for yourself is the last thing you should think about. However, if you’re not feeling supported and healthy, you can’t take care of others. We all know that eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. But don’t forget the importance of emotional and mental support as well. Make time for social outings and stay in touch with your friends. You may also want to consider joining a support group, whether in person or online. Doing things that are good for your body and soul will help you avoid burnout, feel less stressed and better able to accomplish everything on your plate.

Compassionate Care for All Stages of Memory Loss

Bridges® by EPOCH at Pembroke provides assisted living memory care that is comfortable, positive, safe and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia or memory impairment, we’ve created a wellness-focused lifestyle that promotes dignity and individual preferences. Our memory care professionals receive specialized and ongoing training designed to help residents maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – making a truly positive impact on the lives of our residents each and every day.

Dedicated Memory Care

The team of compassionate dementia-care experts at Bridges® by EPOCH at Pembroke delivers 24-hour assistance and inspiring programs that exercise physical and cognitive abilities – all in a supportive, purposefully designed environment. For added peace of mind, we offer simple, all-inclusive pricing options that help make the process a little easier for families.

Community Amenities

Characterized by a beautiful residential design, Bridges® by EPOCH at Pembroke provides everything residents with memory loss need to enjoy comfort, familiarity and security. Soft colors, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life stations create a peaceful and secure environment where residents feel at home.

Contact us today to learn more.

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