Caring for elders while juggling virtual school and a career

Juggling the kids' virtual schooling, elder care, and a career at the same time can be absolutely overwhelming. There will be hard days - days where your children melt down from the frustrations of technology and workload, days where you melt down trying to please everyone and hold it together, and days when your aging parent will melt down from the complete upheaval from the way things used to be.

Where does that leave your partner in all of this? They will likely melt down, too!

There will be difficult conversations, but please don't underestimate the potential opportunity of the season that we are in. As a caregiver, you may choose to pick a point in time and simply just say that "the next 12 months this (or whatever point in time you choose) will be our new normal." Then, take that time to find opportunities and "bless" in this different situation.

Here are some simple tips on how to get through and even thrive during this season of our lives:

1. Be honest with school officials about the challenges at home. Let them know you are a caregiver not only to the children they are teaching but to an adult loved one. Let them know about your professional obligations as well. See how they may be able to create some flexibility for your child.

2. Think of fun ways to complement learning and how you may be able to include your loved one in the education that is being offered by the school. Our elders have a wealth of knowledge that they would love to share. Encourage conversations between your children and your loved one especially around historical events they've experienced and challenges they've had to overcome. These stories will be encouraging to children that a more normal time will come.

3. Have an open conversation with your employer. Help them understand that while they too may be experiencing virtual schooling you have the added stressor in your life of caring for an aging loved one. Can you offer suggestions of how your work schedule may be adjusted? Do you have to work "traditional hours," or could some of your time be flexed?

4. Watch for burnout. Practice self-care however you can, including getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising, and maintaining your regular preventative health appointments.

5. Get help from the kids. Even small children can lend a helping hand around the home. Helping out can be a great opportunity to teach them about importance of responsibility and will foster future independence. Whether or not your family is able to get involved directly with the specific personal caregiving tasks for your elder loved one may or may not be appropriate but other "around the house" duties can be delegated and celebrated. Include the person you are caring for, too! They also want to feel like they are contributing members of the household.

6. Communicate. Be sure to be open to communicating about your feelings, your setbacks, and your expectations to the members of your family. Host a regular family meeting and check in with your employer and your school often to be sure that everyone is on the same page.

7. Change your frame. Is it possible that the family can safely change the scenery from time to time? Does your Wi-Fi work outside? Can you take a socially-distanced vacation at a location that has Wi-Fi so kids can learn in a different setting and you can work in a different place for a few days? Sometimes hitting the rest button by simply changing your frame can be refreshing and uplifting for everyone.

If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has 1000 people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily. More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.
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