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Becoming a Working Mom (or Dad)

Elder care, being the caregiver for an elderly relative, can harm your career. This is the conclusion of the 1999 MetLife Juggling Act Study conducted by The National Center for Women and Aging at Brandeis University and The National Alliance for Caregiving. According to this study on the effects of elder care on working Americans, caregivers give up promotions, raises, and training opportunities. They take a leave from their jobs, cut their hours, or quit their jobs altogether.

Who Feels the Effect of Elder Care?
More women than men are the primary caregivers for their older relatives. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that "the average caregiver is age 46, female, married and working outside the home earning an annual income of $35,000." ("Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures")

Balancing Elder Care and Your Career
While it is difficult to miss out on a promising career opportunity, it is more difficult for most people to disregard the needs of an elderly relative. For babyboomers, who were among the last to experience the phenomenon of the "Leave It to Beaver" stay-at-home mom, it would be unthinkable to turn one's back on a parent in need. Now comes the issue of balance — how do you balance mom's and dad's needs with your career aspirations? Not to mention the fact that many of these caregiver's are also working parents, dealing with child care issues as well.

If you are dealing with a short-term crisis, you should consider taking advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to twelve weeks of paid and unpaid leave to care for a sick relative.

If you will be caring for an elderly relative at home for a period longer than three months, you will have to find another way to balance career and elder care. In lieu of leaving one's career behind, which for many reasons may not be an option, there are other choices.

    * Work a Flexible Schedule or Telecommute: Ask your boss if you can work flexible hours, which would allow you to work while someone else is there to provide care. Alternatively, find out if you can work from home.

    * Share Duties With a Sibling: Share caregiver duties with a sibling or other relative who can handle things at home while you go to work.

    * Utilize Adult Daycare: Adult Daycare provides care in centers within the community while the caregiver is at work.

    * Hire a Caregiver: Trained healthcare workers provide care and companionship at home.

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