New York Times

by Paula Span / December 4, 2015

Her supervisors empathized. They knew why Marcy Sherman-Lewis, a customer service agent, was missing workdays: Both her parents, who lived an hour away, had Alzheimer’s disease.

“My mother had doctors’ appointments; my father had doctors’ appointments,” said Ms. Sherman-Lewis, an only child. “I was constantly running up and down the highway.”

Once she had used up her vacation, sick days and personal days, though, her bosses balked at giving her additional time away from the job. “I knew they wanted me at the office more,” Ms. Sherman-Lewis said. “They asked, ‘What’s your plan? What are you going to do? Put them in a nursing home?’”

Her plan: She resigned in 2007 so that she and her husband, a retired engineer, could move from Overland Park, Kan., to her parents’ city, St. Joseph, Mo. “I was sure I could find work, and I did,” she said. “It worked out perfectly, at first.”

Elder care, however, takes life-altering turns without warning: the crippling fall, the massive stroke. An older person’s need for assistance generally rises; given increased life spans, some workers will care for their parents longer and more intensively than they did their children.

Moreover, “the emotional toll is different,” said Kenneth Matos, senior research director at the Families and Work Institute.

“Someone raising a child is headed for happier events” and greater independence. “Someone caring for an elder is headed for sadder experiences.”

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