Q: I am caring for my mom who lives with us and my two young kids. Besides that, I also work a full-time job. How can I better balance my work and caregiving responsibilities?
A: First, I want to let you know that you are not alone in this. According to a Pew Research Center survey, almost half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent aged 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). People who care for both an older adult and children at the same time are called the sandwich generation. No doubt you can feel the pressure of being in that sandwich between your responsibilities of caring for both the old and the young.
On top of juggling the care required by your loved ones you also have job responsibilities. It can feel like you are juggling the world and if you drop anything it will all fall apart. It is important to remind yourself that no one can do it all. You will need to remind yourself often and give yourself compassion and care.
We do not have to be superheroes. We do not have to wear our fatigue and stress as badges of honor. Instead, we can realize that by doing everything we just may be burning ourselves out. In the end, our loved ones will suffer if we are not caring for ourselves first.
Take a breath and allow yourself to step back and examine your responsibilities.
Keep a calendar that combines your work and personal responsibilities so you can see everything in one place. That way you can see if your day is over-scheduled and unrealistic. It will also make sure you do not double book yourself or miss something.
Make a list of your responsibilities so that you can prioritize what needs to be done specifically by you, and what you can delegate to others. Look for who you can assign some of your responsibilities to. This may be another family member or friend, or may be a paid provider.
Think outside the box. If there is one task that is causing you more stress then others, brainstorm possible solutions. Perhaps you can ask another parent to drive your kids to school some days, or ask a spouse or relative to be in charge of picking up mom’s medications. Anything you can delegate will help you in the long run.
Talk to your employer. Some larger companies offer support to caregivers through an Employee Assistance Program. You can also look into the option of applying for Paid Family Leave through the Employment Development Department (EDD) so that you can take time off work to care for your parent. It provides short term wage replacement (about 60% of your current wage) while caring for a seriously ill family member. You can take up to 8 weeks per year. Learn more about eligibility here.
Reach out to local resources for guidance and support. In Ventura County there are three Family Caregiver Resource Centers that help you think through resources and options to help with care of an aging loved one. They also run support groups for family caregivers. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone and having the ability to share with people in similar situations can provide the stress relief you need. Learn more about the Centers here or by calling 805-477-7300.
Find a way to structure your day so that it is manageable for you, even if that means asking others for help. Include building in time to do things that bring you joy. Caregiving is a long-term role, and you need a way to sustain yourself.
Allow yourself a moment to plan, think through your day, and make the changes you need. With some help and planning it is the hope that you can find ways to enjoy the care you give to others, while also giving care and compassion to yourself.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.