Caring for children and aging parents can put a strain on professional women

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During her professional career, Karen Bond has struggled with balancing the care of an aging parent and her daughter. Women are often the primary caregivers of their family members. (Photo from the Daily Record file)

One of the defining moments of Karen Bond’s professional career occurred about five years ago. “For years, I worked very hard to become president of Executive Alliance,” she said of the nonprofit dedicated to helping professional women succeed in leadership roles.

At the time, Bond was caring for his dementia-stricken mother as well as being a mother to his daughter and having a thriving professional career. “The day of our Women of Excellence lunch, when I had always dreamed that my mother could be there and see this achievement, is the day my caregiver did not show up and I had to be in front of a thousand women . I barely arrived in time.

Caregiving can be extremely challenging for professional women, as many have to juggle their careers with motherhood and aging parents/parents. Although home health aides can help, the majority of women take on the responsibility of care themselves.

Bond, who is now director of senior partnerships at the University of Maryland, left her job at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth to care for her mother.

“For a long time, I never told people that my mother had dementia because keeping it a secret was my security blanket for my career,” she said. “I just tried to do everything. I’m two years after my mother passed away and I’m just starting to feel normal because I was living with two to three hours of sleep. It’s difficult and I think that important to disclose and ask for help.

Elizabeth Weglein, CEO of the Elizabeth Cooney Care Network, said reversing the roles of children caring for their parents can be difficult.

Elizabeth Weglein, CEO of the Elizabeth Cooney Care Network, notes that reversing the roles of children caring for their parents can be difficult. Many who now have children find themselves caught in the middle of commitments. “Do they spend time taking their child to football camp or being with them for their special awards and parties and just being with their children rather than caring for mom and dad who may have physical needs. This is usually some cognitive decline. This level of stress can be enormous.

According to Weglein, women who care for their parents are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety because they are pulled in several different directions. They feel that there are not enough hours in the day to take care of their children, parents, spouse/partner and succeed in their career. Many women are also putting their own health aside in order to care for others, leading to the discovery of later-stage cancers and an increase in mental health issues.

“We saw a high level of burnout with our families finally coming to us,” Weglein said. “They had a higher final need than before the pandemic. We were seeing more terminally ill people from family helping, but we also saw exhaustion from mom and dad. They realized they were becoming a burden and it became very, very difficult to ask them for help, so they waited. Waiting leads to longer hospital stays and an increased risk of falls.

Celebrating 65 years of service, the Elizabeth Cooney Care Network offers a wide variety of services for children under 100, including respite care, daily hygiene and fall prevention. “Sometimes just knowing psychologically that you have support, that you have someone reliable to call, I think is a big part of reducing your stress,” she said.

Although women often put their needs last, Weglein notes the importance of self-care. She encourages women to set aside time to do something they enjoy, whether it’s going for a walk or joining a yoga class to rejuvenate.

Bond agrees and thinks women need to be graceful and patient when it comes to providing care. “I took the ‘I won’t stop’ route,” she said. “I was a super woman. You can’t do that. You have to take a break. It’s like putting gas in the car. You have to take time out or you’re less efficient.


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