McCune’s advice for employees feeling the stress of caring for an elder:
• Discuss your benefits with your supervisor. “Oftentimes people are not aware of the depth of their benefits,” says McCune. Do you have a dependent-care spending account? Any “time off for family members” in your benefits package? Let your supervisor know about your situation and ask about any existing opportunities.
• Prioritize home and work schedules. “Learn how to say ‘no’ and really focus on the things that are important,” says McCune. “Maybe stop volunteering at the school while you’re dealing with a caregiving issue.”
• Make time for yourself. To take good care of an elderly parent and a spouse and/or kids, you have to take care of yourself. Counselors at United Behavioral suggest asking yourself: What do I do for myself? What does my day look like? How can I find a half-hour for myself?
“We know that by having a little alone time, say, a stroll around the neighborhood, that’s healing and invigorating,” she says.
• Don’t do it alone. “You’ve got family members and support groups you can tap into,” McCune says. “Hold a family conference, involve your siblings and spouse. Approach it as a group issue, not an individual issue.”
• Talk with your parents in advance about what their expectations are, where they see themselves growing old, whether they’ve done their estate planning, granted power of attorney, all those nitty-gritty things.
“About 70% of our calls are crisis-related, either they’re beginning to see lapses in memory or it’s a fall, and now they can’t take care of a parent anymore. So they call us,” McCune says. “Once the parent is discharged, the family really has to get involved. If you talk in advance, you save yourself a lot of time when the event occurs.”