Balancing Work, Life and Caregiving: You Can’t Go it Alone


Hollywood can be a great platform for providing mass exposure to many of the issues and challenges that plague society. It’s like the cliché, “art imitates life.”

For example, the film “Still Alice” portrays some of the challenges families endure when a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The success of the film, and the awards won by its leading lady, Julianne Moore, has brought awareness of these trials to the forefront of society.

However, when the lights of the theater dissipate and the box office numbers dwindle, the real-life caregivers and their challenges with loved ones who are struggling with Alzheimer’s disease remain.

Caregivers Have a Lot to Juggle

New research has demonstrated that there is a growing population of caregivers who are managing the dual role of working full time and providing full-time care. These caregivers live a double life.

The way the American health care system is currently set up, it is expected that a family member will provide the primary care for a senior with a chronic illness like dementia. This expectation causes issues for spouses, adult children and other family members who must be present and productive at work, provide comprehensive care for a senior, and make time for their own families.

I personally lived this challenge when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Achieving a balance was difficult for me, even though I shared the caregiving responsibilities with my brother and my mother. During the last seven years of my dad’s life, we all experienced some tough trials.

My brother and I quickly realized that we were actually caring for two older adults: one with Alzheimer’s (Dad) and our mother, who was his primary caregiver. Mom did whatever she could for Dad, and this took a toll on her health as well. The other challenge my brother and I faced was trying to maintain our full-time careers and family life while looking after our parents.

Seeking Out Help is Mandatory

At first glance, full-time care in a nursing home or memory care community may seem like the most appropriate option for someone with Alzheimer’s. But, as was the case with my family, many cannot afford care in such facilities. While this is a reality for many in the United States, it does not mean that there aren't other more affordable options available.

The three of us (my mom, my brother and I) made the decision to keep Dad at home for as long as possible, and we chose in-home care to assist us in this endeavor. He successfully stayed at home until his final 90 days of life, when we could no longer provide the skilled medical care he needed. At that point, he moved into a nursing home.

The times I had to manage with my father alone were very difficult. Frequently I had to take time off from work to get him to doctor’s visits or help my mother manage his difficult behaviors. However, I was fortunate that I had an understanding employer and family members who could work together well and were open to hiring outside help.

Many caregivers are managing all of this on their own. Regardless of your situation, you must seek out as much help as possible. Do not try to endure the challenge alone. Let friends and family know that you need assistance. You may not want to have the conversation, but talk to your boss about caregiving. Research all kinds of outside help until you find an appropriate solution you can afford. Even a few hours of respite each week are well worth the effort.

Family caregivers must continue to give a voice to the challenges they experience. Try your best to remain open to all possible solutions and communicate honestly with the people in your life. The resources and opportunities that become available may surprise you.

Dr. Keith Washington

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Dr. Keith Washington understands the challenges facing working caregivers. His book, “Caregiving Full-Time and Working Full-Time,” aids readers in understanding and managing the role of working full-time while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease.

Caregiving and Working Full-Time

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But isn't the Government supposed to represent us? They have established Medicare (that we pay into, so they aren't really "giving" us anything) and Medicaid. Can't forget ObamaCare... (some states translates to Medicaid) Medicare won't touch Alzheimers as far as financial assistance for caregiving, and for good reason. They would be overwhelmed and unable to sustain. I'm not anti-business owner, there are progressive companies out there that understand workers' need a work-life balance. I wonder, what would happen to all of the people that are being taken care of by family members if the family members dropped them all off at the various hospitals for care. (??) We take an enormous burden off of the health system/industry and yes, government (which would inevitably have to create another tax structure to support) that is not equipped to care for these folks.

My long-winded reply basically boils down to the fact that we as a society (American) need to take a look at how we "do business". Are we as human beings supposed to be machines that are running to ...excuse me ... but where is the fire??? Is it all about the Almighty Dollar? We see where that is leading us.
And if you look at the projections, there are going to be even more people diagnosed with some kind of dementia, so sooner or later, this is going to affect everyone at some level. Shouldn't we make allowances for that?
Isn't it time we evolve into a higher level of human-ness and um...actually care about each other and quality of life? Call me a dreamer....
Balancing career and caregiving has been a challenge for me, even though my parents [mid 90's] and I live under different roofs.... even logistical care can be emotional draining. I am a senior citizen myself, with a career that I love and need, and trying to help my parents with appointments, hair cuts, errands, weekly groceries, shopping, etc.

My Mom is understanding that my time is limited, but my Dad doesn't understand. He thinks I can just drop what I am doing at work and hop in the car and drive him to Home Depot. I lost an outstanding job a few years ago because of all the time I took off running here and there.... and a Manager who was very unsympathetic. I was just shy of reaching my 25th year with that company. Now I have a job with a sympathetic Manager [who's wife had Alzheimer's] but this job has no benefits like what I had with my previous job.

One time my Dad asked my to resign from work so I could drive him and Mom to wherever they wanted to go..... I then asked my Dad "did you quit work to take care of your parents?"... of course I knew his answer would be no, as neither of my parents were hands on with their own parents. Plus I told my Dad that since I was female and didn't earn the same salary as my male counter-parts, it will take me a few more years to make up the difference.

What really burns me is that not long ago I found out that my parents could have easily hired a driver... my gosh, I could have kept that job and had made it to 25 years and then some with a really good retirement.

Because of stress related health issues over this past decade, I will never reach the age of my parents.... I would be lucky to reach even 75.
My husband and I built our small house on a large piece of property 40 years ago. Our nursery/garden center grew up around the house. My wonderful husband died 5 years ago and now our son and I operate the business. I do all the phone work, accounting, etc. It's 24/7 this time of year. (And exhausting). But I love it and we are keeping my husband's legacy alive and making it even bigger and better.
I am also full time caregiver for MIL. My business office is in the basement of our house and her bed is in my living room directly above my office. So I run up and down the steps checking on her etc all day. Hospice is a help as they send an aide 3x/wk to bathe her in bed. I take care of her because I can make it work. But I am so tired. I get to see people all day (employees and customers) and it helps me mentally. But at this point I wonder if she will outlive me.
Anyway, that's how I do both. - and it's a lot. Trust me.