Q: My employer is pushing me to make a choice between working and caring for an elderly loved one. What should I do?
A: We have a crisis in this country, and most companies do not recognize it. I find this extremely interesting since more and more workers are caring for their aging parents.
I don't know how flexible your job is or how much time you are missing from work, but I can tell you that companies need to know that they can count on their employees being present. I know it's scary, but you might need to speak to your supervisor and explain the situation. Have a plan before you approach him or her. Be clear about how much time you need to miss from work each week; how and when you will make up the time; and what you are willing to do to help your company accomplish their goals if they will work with you to find some time to care for your parent.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having a plan in place for all of your responsibilities. You need to be very clear about the illness or condition your loved one suffers from and exactly what you have to do for him or her.
You will have to ask yourself some tough questions. Are you willing to sacrifice some things so that you can hire an outside caregiver and relieve you of some of your responsibilities? Have you set up a support system of family and friends to help you? If you live near a college you can reach out to the nursing program or the geriatric program and see if they offer any services. Often students are willing to work for less money in order to gain hands-on experience and class credits. There is also senior daycare, which is often affordable and gives the senior an outlet for socialization.
So often we are afraid to approach our supervisors with honest and open conversation that we tend to sabotage ourselves in the process. Companies don't like surprises and they don't like numerous, unexpected absences. I'm not sure what your position is at your company, but you need to try and see this from the company's perspective. You know what your perspective is, so take some time and examine both sides before your speak to your supervisor. This is always a good idea in almost any situation.
Elder care is very much a part of our societal landscape and if you can present yourself as one who can help offer solutions to the problem for the company, instead of someone who is avoiding the problem, I have a hunch that you might become extremely valuable to them. Take a leap of faith and see if you can help your company grow. Become a valuable resource for them.