Standing On A Soapbox...

I pulled out the soap box. Not a real one (what is a soap box anyway?), but a virtual one...the kind you stand on when you need a little height to project your important message out to the masses.... messages that typically carry a heavy, often controversial, and sometimes life-altering impact.

So – simply it is: women and men should get equal maternity and paternity pay. What? They do already? And the (so-not-mandated pay) is $0.00?!!  Oh...I see...the law says companies have to give men and women 12 weeks off to care for their new junior, but they don’t have to PAY them for that time.... Got it. Well that sucks.

But this story isn’t about newly minted parents getting hosed by corporate greed. No. It’s about not-so-new parents (the Sandwich Generation... Baby Boomers) taking care of their own aging parents, and being invisible to the purse-holding powers that be. And, although this version of the story features me and my own Mom, we’re really interchangeable... the ending is the same for virtually any family caregiving pod.  

After taking 15 years off from “work” to raise a bucket load of kids (a Brady Bunch thing), I started selling real estate. Two years of ramping up and I was confident my third year would be stellar. I’d be a star student...”On The Board” every week...Diamond Society and all....But, that’s not quite how it’s going...  

Let me start by professing how much I love my mother. She’s smart, fiercely independent, sweet as can be, super easy-going, and generally the easiest Super Senior in the world to be with. That being said, she’s still 91years old which means she can’t be quite as independent as she’d like.

Fact: there’s a direct correlation between Mom’s age and the amount of help she needs. Fact: she hates this fact.

But how much time does helping Mom really take, and is it truly the reason I’m not crushing it in business? Yes and No. On the surface, the light “caretaking” I do for Mom would seem pretty non-invasive...a few doctor appointments a month and a healthy dinner 4-5 nights a week. Simple right? ... Two little tasks that couldn’t possibly be the reason for my lagging success in business. To keep myself from falling into an emotional rabbit hole, I’ll break it down...

A simple “doctor appointment” requires multiple actions: 1) calling the office to schedule the appointment” (“can you hold please”), 2) calling Mom several times before said appointment to make sure it’s on her calendar, 3) driving to the appointment, 4) waiting (and waiting) for the doctor, 4) actually seeing the doctor, 5) waiting in line to check-out and schedule the “follow-up” appointment, 6) visiting the lab downstairs for “blood work,” 7) stopping at the restroom, 8) running down the parking lot hill to get the car, 9) helping Mom into the car, 10) going to IHOP or McDonalds after the appointment, and often, 11) stopping at the pharmacy. Sooo – local appointments can take over two hours, and appointments six towns away are easily a day.

You get the point.... no need to break down the time taken for dinner prep and delivery. In any week, my personal “light caregiving” might also include changing sheets (although Mom still likes to do that herself to get it right), taking the trash and recycling out, washing a few dishes (even though Mom is totally ok with them just the way they are), meeting with Mom and her $$$ people, making bank deposits, etc. And coming soon, my caregiving will involve a little (unprofessional) med management and hygiene maintenance.

Each one of these seemingly simple tasks takes time. So, YES.... it’s possible that helping my mother really could be - at least in part - the reason I’m not crushing it in real estate! And apparently, I’m not alone. A little compelling research on the economics of family-member caregiving yielded boring but important findings, which you can read for yourself right here.  

All of this begs the question - can I get paid for helping Mom? For me, the answer is no, not yet. But for others, here’s the nutshell: 1) the Credit for Caring Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives (3/2016) and would offer family caregivers a $3,000 tax credit (big whoop), 2) If a senior has long term care health insurance (which most don’t...) and their family caregiver is willing to become “certified,” they may be entitled to some form of payout, 3) If a senior is on Medicaid, some states offer a program called Cash and Counseling where the caregiver may be entitled to payment directly from the senior (who receives money from the government for limited caregiving services). You can learn more about these programs here.

But I’m hopeful for the future of family helping family. It probably won’t happen in my personal projected caregiving career (after all, Mom’s 91.3), but maybe 25 years down the road, when my kids are taking care of me, they’ll be whistling-while-they-work because they’re earning Megabucks for their efforts. I doubt it, but every penny counts. Maybe “Maternity/Paternity Leave” will cover both ends of the family spectrum... first time parents of newborns, AND adult children caring for aging parents. At that time, I’ll be able to put my soapbox away, which will be totally ok since I’m sure I won’t be able to climb onto it anyway.

Emily GaffneyComment