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Dad First, COPD Second
Dad First, COPD Second

Elizabeth provides support, insight and guidance for caregivers.

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To Care and To Work Beyond 2012

A street sign showing the intersection of work and life.I was going to tackle this later, but the recent New York Times caregiver blog post compelled me to address this sooner.

Many employers ago, I experienced what legal scholars term “family responsibilities discrimination.” According to the post, a new study undertaken by the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law and the AARP Public Policy Institute, this type of discrimination is becoming more prevalent.

As a relatively young caregiver at 41, I am faced with a dual challenge of caring for a diabetic mother, who at 65 beats the odds given her multiple health-and-job-related complications. And you already know about my almost 84-year-old dad. I can honestly and sadly say that over the years my work environment has been – in one word – unsympathetic.

Only another caretaker understands the struggle to balance work, life, and homecare responsibilities. There’s a Native American proverb I love: “I will not judge a man until I have walked in their moccasins.”

I often reflect to when co-workers and managers gave me grief for caring for my parents. It was as if there was something wrong with me. I was in my 30s and with no family. Even when we traveled to Argentina to assist my grandparents, co-workers were dismissive. One even said behind my back, “Oh, she’s probably going on vacation – that’s what a lot of Hispanics do.”

It is a sad state for caregivers as we move beyond 2012.

As a freelancer, I am able to work and care from home. For better or worse, they are my family. I will not abandon them. Today, I find that my managers get it because they have the same situation. In one word – they’re empathic.

Yet we need to push forward legally. I recommend you read the post above. While my situation pales to many others, the trials of caring for a loved one should unite us to strengthen existing laws. I understand a manager’s expectations. I also understand fairness and flexibility. If a ranked employee can work remotely, so should an employee who tends to family obligations. Both should be given the same opportunity. Technology makes it possible.

Our individual call to action is to speak with our elected officials to assure caregiver discrimination is prohibited and that more “inclusive language” is added to existing laws. So won’t you click?

For a nation obsessed with “family values,” I know where I stand as a caregiver. 

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About the Author

Elizabeth cares for her mother, a diabetic, and for her father, who suffers from COPD.