As our population continues to gray, more and more adult children find themselves juggling the demands of a busy career with the responsibilities of caring for an aging parent. The term “sandwich generation” was coined to describe that very situation. According to Care.com, more than 65 million people in the U.S. consider themselves to be family caregivers. 25.5 million of them are trying to balance work with caregiving.
Juggling Work Responsibilities with Caregiving
Research from The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that 21% of employees who take sick days, do so to handle family issues including caregiving. Even if they come to work, a caregiver who is concerned and distracted about a senior loved one who is home alone isn’t as productive. That situation is known as presenteeism. Because more employers are discovering that the cost of presenteeism has now surpassed the cost of absenteeism in the workforce, many are more open to more flexible workplace solutions.
If balancing work and caregiving is a struggle, read on for a few tips that can help:
1. Read your employee handbook to determine what your company’s policies are. Do they have a partnership with an elder care advisory service or an employee assistance program? These are two avenues for help you might be entitled to at no cost.
2. Talk with your Human Resources Department to see if the company allows for flextime and/or telecommuting. Both make it easier to accommodate a senior loved one’s physician appointments and other support they may need.
3. Take an FMLA leave. If your aging parent’s condition demands your full attention on a short-term basis, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a family member. While the leave is unpaid, you are still entitled to your health care insurance and to have job security. There are some employers that are exempt from this law based on size and other factors. Be sure to determine if your employer is covered before you make plans to take an FMLA leave.
4. Talk with your local agency on aging to determine what community-based programs are available to help your senior loved one. They may be able to connect you with respite care services, Meals on Wheels, and other support services that can take some of the burden of caregiving off of you.
5. Consider senior care programs such as an adult day center or a private duty home care aide. Both can help provide your aging family member with the care and support they need during the daytime hours when you have to be focused on work priorities. Most adult day centers even offer transportation to make it easier on adult children who work.
Finally, remember to express your gratitude to your boss and your colleagues if you are able to work out a more flexible work schedule. It likely requires them to be more flexible to accommodate your special situation.