Whether or not one likes the word "burden" when referring to elder care, it is often used. And yes, even for those of us who dearly love the person for whom we are caring, when we are realistic, we have to recognize a certain "burden" exists. With love comes pain. With caregiving, comes choices, decisions and frustration.
Indystar.com recently ran a timely article titled "Balancing burden of elder care: Adult day-care facilities, medical leave policies and empathy are helping stressed-out workers be caregivers, too," which covered a lot of the "burden" territory. The story is unflinching at its look at some of the challenges employed caregivers face.
When I began working full time, my three surviving elders were in one nursing home. That was difficult enough, as I still visited them nearly every day, and I had to field all the calls from the nursing home when someone fell, or was ill. I had to arrange for hospice care while I was sitting at my office desk trying to work with the other half of my brain. I do think my employer got his money's worth of work out of me, but it wasn't easy to be productive in both areas.
"Balancing burden of elder care," begins with a story of a woman whose husband is able to be in adult day care while she works. During the time I was running from one elder's apartment to another's nursing home room, to another's condominium, there wasn't any adult day care in my area. One woman tried to set up a day care, but she was "before her time," in that, while the concept was catching on in other places, it hadn't caught fire in our area. She closed the center down, only to open an in-home care franchise. Now, a dozen years later, adult day cares are popping up like grass on the prairie.
The woman in the Indystar.com story is able to use such a facility for her husband. This enables her work without worrying about his care, or at least his safety, during the day. She still has all the doctor calls and other needs to tend to, but the day care definitely frees her mind to concentrate on work. She's grateful for this service.
Another segment of the story talks about the concerns of employers. They are aware that an employee with caregiving burdens can't be as productive as one who is free of this concern. Good employers are looking for ways to help employees cope, including family leave and even a little empathy. They'd better, or they will find they are losing experienced, quality workers by the busload.
In an interview awhile back, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota referred to today's elder care as the "childcare of the 70s." She is right. Employers found out back in the 70s that for parents to be fully productive, they needed some support for child care. Some large employers even set up on-site child care (I don't expect to see on-site elder care soon). But employers need to realize that a large number of their workers have elders to care for.
Not a lot of people can afford to quit their job and stay home so Mom - who needs 24-hour care - can come and live with them. So, people go to work with half of their brain on their job, and the other half on what to do with Mom while she recovers from her hip surgery.
The last segment of the Indystar.com article is the saddest. A man had to put his father in a nursing home, as he'd used up his options for caring for him at home. A nursing home is not necessarily a bad option, when the time is right, but people shouldn't feel they have no other choice, unless they quit their job.
The combination of working at a job to pay the bills, and working at elder care, can indeed feel like both are a burden. Creative solutions and empathetic employers are needed if we are to care for our elders compassionately, while we keep employees productive and sane.
Read Carol's blog - Adult Day Care- The Time Has Come.
Published On: February 11, 2008