Gary Gilles is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in private practice for over 20 years. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University ...Read More
With just one phone call, Shelly’s life changed dramatically. She was told one evening that her 71-year-old father had suffered a massive stroke.
As the oldest daughter, Shelly was the natural choice to take on the role of caregiver and she did so willingly. She looks back on that day and acknowledges that she was not prepared for the challenges that lay ahead, but is not alone in sharing that sentiment.
Who are the Primary Caregivers?
There are millions of people, with one or both parents still alive, who assume that they will one day be called upon to care for their parents in some capacity. Statistically, most caregivers are women (70 percent), yet few seriously plan for stepping into that role.
A survey found that 84 percent of women with parents who needed care did not plan for it. Plans were only put in place after a need for care became obvious. Important caregiving decisions that are made in a crisis situation are stressful and may not provide optimal results because arrangements often have to be made hastily.
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Caregiving and Career
Many people who are (or will eventually become) caregivers also work full-time. However, only a small number anticipate that caregiving will interfere with their jobs. Only about one in four women who have not taken care of elderly parents assumed they might have to take time off work, while over half thought they wouldn’t need to.
However, those expectations may not be realistic. A report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving revealed that six out of 10 employed caregivers adjusted their work schedules because of caregiving responsibilities, while 10 percent reduced their hours from full to part-time, and nine percent left the workplace altogether.
“Sandwiched” Between Loyalties
In addition to having unrealistic expectations of how caregiving duties might affect their professional lives, many also underestimate the impact it will have on their families. Most people are under the assumption that their family will not feel neglected if they have to care for aging or ill parents.
But many families do feel the squeeze when a parent has to sacrifice a significant amount of home time for caregiving. As true members of the sandwich generation, it is inevitable that many men and women will end up taking on significantly more responsibility if they step into the role of caregiver.
Even though a majority of people appear to have less than realistic expectations about their own ability to juggle their family, job, and caregiving responsibilities, more are attuned to the financial toll that long-term care can take. Most children of aging parents are concerned about the quality of care their loved ones will receive, particularly if their parents are not financially secure and they have limited financial resources to help them.
Planning for the Future
Any potential caregiver would be well-served to begin planning for that possible role. Planning ahead means different things for different people. Some situations call for elaborate plans, while others may simply need to cover the basics. Here are some tips to help you start the planning process.
- Talk with your parents about their future care needs, finances, and the kind of care they will be able to afford
- Create a plan with other family members for sharing caregiving responsibilities
- Consider long-term care insurance for your parents and yourself
- Consult with a financial advisor to develop specific goals
- Start planning for your own retirement years
- Talk to your children about your own wishes for care
Watching your parents become frail and ill is difficult enough without also having to juggle work, family, and finances. With a little planning, you can be better prepared to meet these challenges. There is no better time to begin planning for the future than the present.