One of the best career columnist/bloggers is Marci Alboher who writes the “Shifting Careers” daily blog and weekly column for the New York Times. Marci was a great source of support during my mother’s illness this past year, and she asked me to share what I learned to help others manage the work+life fit transition of eldercare. Here’s the blog from the Monday, December 3rd New York Times:
Eldercare, an Inevitable Work/Life Issue
By MARCI ALBOHER, New York Times “Shifting Careers” Blog
If there is one issue that most of us will face, it is likely to be the need or desire to spend time with an aging relative or close friend. I have a 93-year-old grandmother who lives a remarkably independent life. She lives in and cares for her own home, prepares her own meals and does most of her own food shopping. Until two years ago, when she gracefully agreed not to use her car anymore, she also drove. What she wants and needs most is company, and she never fails to recognize how busy all of us “young people” around her are even as my mother, my two cousins and I do our best to visit each week. We are the lucky ones. My grandmother is relatively healthy and autonomous, and we are able to enjoy the time we spend with her. I also have a flexible working life, so if I visit her on a Tuesday, I can work on a Saturday to make up for it.
But what about the millions of workers whose working lives afford far less flexibility? According to the 2004 Caregiving in the U.S study, conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving, AARP and the MetLife Foundation, there were an estimated “44 million caregivers age 18 and older in the U.S. (21 percent of the population) caring for another adult,” a number that will only increase as the population ages.
Volumes have been written about balancing work with caring for young children. In fact, many journalists writing about the workplace are finding daily fodder on that issue alone. But eldercare is an issue that will catch up with most workers. And both workers and employers need to be prepared.
Cali Williams Yost, an author and consultant on workplace flexibility, is one of the most sophisticated thinkers on what she calls “work+life fit,” and this summer, after her mother died, she wrote an especially moving and eye-opening blog post about her own experience. That post starkly outlined the reasons that eldercare is so much more complex and challenging than childcare, especially the fact that eldercare can be sad and only get worse whereas childcare is filled with hope and gets easier as time goes on.