Awareness Article: Caring for the Elderly

As the Baby Boomer generation nears retirement, many are facing the unexpected challenge of assuming the role of caregiver for their aging parent(s). According to the 2008 Census, the percentage of adult children providing personal care and/or financial support to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years. This role reversal brings with it financial, physical and emotional stress on the caregiver. Maintaining a full- or even, part-time job can be a challenge.  Finding a way to balance work and home life is a must.

It is no surprise that many of the principles of finding balance as a working parent are applicable in this situation. While caring for an aging parent is sure to bring unique challenges, employees are finding that their supervisors are more supportive and understanding than they had expected. The key is communication. Supervisors understand that providing options to staff to cover situations, both expected and unexpected, leads to a reduction in absenteeism/tardiness, increased productivity, employee longevity, and increased employee morale.  Programs such as flextime, job sharing, and telecommuting are options for some positions, but all staff benefit from the understanding of supervisors and co-workers.

Should the role of caregiver require you to be away from work, the University sick leave policy allows eligible employees to use accrued sick leave (up to 12 days each calendar year) for an illness in an employee’s immediate family, which includes parents. Employees who have exhausted their sick leave can, with approval from their supervisor, use vacation, personal days or leave without pay.  Eligible employees are also covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which ensures job protection for 12 weeks during a 12-month period for family and medical reasons.

Here at UMKC, faculty are working to increase the overall awareness of aging. The Center on Aging Studies has formed the UMKC Consortium on Aging which is comprised of faculty representatives from different schools and departments who are committed to aging projects and issues.  This group is working to encourage additional research funding for aging initiatives and to focus on community collaboration related to aging projects near the UMKC Campus.

The following list contains links to various community resources available to adult children dealing with aging parents:

American Red Cross

Alzheimer’s Association (Heart of America Chapter):  Resources for caregivers & those dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease

Department of Veteran’s Affairs:  Health Care Administration

Division of Senior Services (Clay & Platte Counties): (816) 781-8900

Johnson County Human Services Area Agency on Aging: Source for community based services for older adults & caregivers in Johnson County, Kansas.

Kansas City Regional Home Care Association (KCRHCA): An association comprised of home care organizations (Home Health, Private Duty Home Care, Hospice, Medical Device and Home Infusion) serving older adults throughout the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services: A government agency which promotes the security, dignity & independence of Kansas seniors and individuals with disabilities.

KC Connect (sponsored by MARC):  Free, confidential, information & Assistance Program.

Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) Area Agency on Aging (serves Cass, Clay, Jackson, Platte, Ray counties):  List of local programs & services for participants, caregivers & volunteers.

Missouri Alliance of Area Agencies on Aging: Services & Programs to help maintain an independent lifestyle

Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services:  Information on Long Term Care, Nursing Home Compare, Home Care & more

National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers:  Assists older adults & persons in obtaining their maximum functional potential

Caregiver Action Network: Education, support & empowerment for caregivers

Parkinson Foundation of the Heartland:  A nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people affected by Parkinson’s disease through programs, education, advocacy & research

Shepherd’s Center of Kansas City Central:  Empowers mid-life & older adults to live healthy, engaged & independent lives

The American Stroke Foundation:  Resources for caregivers & those dealing with stroke

The Caregiver Institute:  Part of Shepherd’s Center of Kansas City Central, The Caregiver Institute is a free, coordinated response to the special needs of caregivers for older adults through employee assistance, community partnerships and caregiver education

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development:  Low Income Senior Apartment Housing in Kansas City Metro

Veterans Benefits Administration:  Insurance, Compensation & Benefits