How Caring for Aging Parents Can Negatively Impact Work

It's a common issue for sandwich generation parents, and a new study backs it up. Here's a look at the toll it takes on parents' work life – and what to do.

Missing work for appointments. Taking calls while you’re on the clock. Constantly needing to make excuses for something you couldn’t do because of personal obligations.

Really, it’s like being a new parent at work all over again.

It’s the situation faced by parents in the “sandwich generation” who are raising their children while also caring for aging parents.

Giving voice to a quiet struggle

And now, a new study published in the Journal of Aging and Health highlights just how much those aging-parent caregiver responsibilities can impact you at work.

The study, which looked at 642 workers at a public university who were unpaid caregivers for a parent or other senior, found that almost 75 percent of workers said caregiving disrupted their work – many of those describing the disruptions as “severe,” U.S. News & World Report explains in a recent article.

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The work interruptions ranged from needing to adjust their hours on the “mild” end – to things like transitioning to part-time work or even retiring early on the “severe” end of the spectrum, the article notes.

Employer support lagging

Making matters worse, about a quarter of workers said they don’t get support from their employer.

“A big and overwhelming consequence of America’s aging population is that so-called sandwiched caregivers, typically middle-aged, are caring for ailing parents while trying to work full-time and raise their own children,” lead study author Matthew Andersson says in the report. “It’s no wonder we see such high rates of work interruption among caregivers.”

Despite the high rate of work issues for people caring for an aging parent, caregivers don’t have to face this alone. Even if employer support isn’t offered, help is available to make caregiving more manageable.

Making the sandwich situation work

Creating a net of support is crucial when it comes to being a caregiver to an aging parent – if you work full-time or part-time, in-office or at-home.

Whether you’re in this position now or think you might be in the future, start with our checklists for becoming a caregiver to an elderly parent – this gives a sense of the many tasks that often need to be managed.

And, especially if you’re in the thick of caring for your aging parent, remember these three essential tips.

1. Ramp up your resources

Talk to local senior centers, nonprofits, churches and other city, county and state agencies that may have resources that would help you fill your parent’s day, assist with transportation to appointments or meet other needs.

This can also include free caregiver respite, programs for seniors and even caregiver support groups.

2. Know that you can’t do it alone

It takes a village – even when it comes to caring for an aging parent. Enlisting the support of other family members is the obvious first choice for many people, but also consider that friends, neighbors and other loved ones may be more willing to help than you think. It can be tough to ask for help, so consider these tips for caregivers.

3. Consider your options for more help

Find out whether your parent’s Medicare Advantage plan covers caregiving services. Even if it doesn’t, hiring more hours of professional help could still be less costly than losing your full-time position or retiring early. Many organizations also offer volunteer visitor programs. Also, browse the AARP’s advice on hiring a caregiver.

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