How to Care for Your Aging Parent While Pursuing a Career

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Jul 30, 2020

Jul 30, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

When you’re aggressively pursuing your career, extra responsibilities outside of work can weigh you down and create significant friction in your life. But if you have an aging parent who needs help, you can’t just ignore the issue.

4 Tips to Overcome Friction and Find Balance

If you’re struggling with how to handle adult caregiving duties while pursuing a full-time career, you are not alone. It’s a battle that millions of your peers face every single day. And while there’s no perfect answer, it’s difficult to make an argument against prioritizing the health and well-being of your parents. The friction lies in finding balance so that you don’t sink your life and career at the expense of caregiving.

While understanding that every situation has its own unique factors and circumstances, here are a handful of practical tips you can use to overcome friction and find balance:

  • Be Honest With Your Employer

If you’re an employee of a company, you need to have a conversation with your boss. Otherwise, juggling caregiving with your career will prove to be a nearly impossible feat. 

Ideally, your boss will understand and work with you to come up with flexible solutions that allow you to continue working while caregiving. This might include temporarily shifting certain responsibilities around, allowing you to work remotely, or offering some extra time off.

If you’re self-employed and/or run your own business, frank conversations with employees and clients will go a long way. You’ll be surprised how understanding people are - particularly if they’ve had a similar experience of their own. 

  • Embrace Your Rights

As an employee, there are certain protections that may kick in even if your boss isn’t overly cooperative with your situation. For example, you may be able to use the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, to take some time off to handle caregiving duties. 

FMLA allows you to take off up to 12 weeks per year without pay (but with job security). In order to qualify, you’ll have to meet a variety of qualifications, including working for a company with at least 50 employees, a government agency, or an elementary/secondary school. Generally speaking, you must have worked there for at least 12 months (and 1,250 hours in that period). It’s also possible that your employer will require you to use up your paid leave before tapping FMLA leave.

  • Explore Assistance Options

According to research from AARP, the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside of her home and spends close to 20 hours weekly providing unpaid care for a loved one.

Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself weighing financial challenges and constraints. 

The data shows that more than half of current caregivers report a need to modify their work schedules in order to provide care. Roughly 39 percent say their inability to accept additional responsibilities at work hurts their ability to seek or accept promotions.

If you find yourself in a situation where caregiving is putting a strain on your finances, you should know that there are options for financial assistance. (However, much of it depends on the status of your loved one, where you live, what type of care you’re providing, etc.)

If you’re living in New York, for example, certain programs like CDPAP, provide compensation for caring for an elderly parent. Your parent needs to have Medicaid, require home care, and be willing to appoint you as a documented caregiver. (This won’t replace your income, but it does help offset some of the financial challenges.)

  • Make Time for You

If you aren’t careful, you can easily get burned out from juggling caregiving and a career. And while you’ll have to carefully pick and choose your spots, make sure you regularly make time for yourself. Self-care plays an integral role in helping maintain the right frame of mind in situations where so much is required of you.

Think of yourself like a pitcher of water. The more you pour yourself out to help others, the emptier you get. And if you want to continue pouring out through caregiving, you must occasionally stop to fill back up. That’s what self-care is - a refilling of your mind and soul.

Where Are Your Priorities?

It’s easier to find balance when you know what your priorities are. There will always be friction and sacrifice, but you won’t have to waste energy determining whether or not you’re doing the right thing. So, if you do nothing else, take today to make a list of your priorities, objectives, and concerns. Then based on this information, you can begin making smart decisions that keep everyone's best interests in mind.