My dad has Parkinson’s. He’s 76 and has been diagnosed for 6 years. His disease has advanced to the point in which he now needs full time care, which is primarily in the form of my mum. Nothing about our experience with this disease has been uplifting or positive. I suppose that’s not entirely true. My dad has become quite a softy since the onset. His tolerance of the noise and mess his grandchildren make (ranging from 2 to 10 years old since his diagnosis) is nearly endless, and he continues to find great pleasure in teasing and joking with them. Parkinson’s has changed my dad from a highly intelligent conversationalist, avid golfer, tireless reader and debater extraordinaire to someone who can only keep up with the conversation when his medication has kicked in. He is, therefore, sometimes able to converse like he used to, although he finds it difficult to complete his thoughts. He is often muddled and confused about plans and recent events. He is often too confused to know when to take his medication, which is why he now needs nearly full time care. He needs help with so many daily activities, such as getting in and out of bed, which means my mum either needs to be there every morning, every night, and all 4 times during the day when he takes his medication, or she needs to hire a carer at great expense. It also takes a crystal ball to be able to hire a carer to be at the house there to help him each morning at the time he actually wakes.

It’s not easy, not for anyone. As my parents live in Kent and I live in London, I’m not able to help with the daily practicalities but I want to help, I need to help but it’s hard to know how. I have a full time job myself with an 8 and 10 year old at home and a husband who works all hours, so it’s not easy to find the time nor the mental headspace for something that’s so new and difficult to navigate. However, the older I get, the more I appreciate that family comes first. Once a month, I’ll leave the office a bit early, head to Kent on the train and spend the night with my mum and dad, just me and them with no other family distractions. I’ll then work a half day the following day which gives me time to spend with them. My company of 14 years, C. Lewis and Company, is incredibly supportive of family and health obligations such as these. When I asked if I could take a half day a month to spend with my parents, my boss’s response was, “Always”. That kind of company support is invaluable and is a huge part of the reason why I’ve been with them so long.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to care for the elderly, particularly when they’re living as long as they do now. There are countless others like me out there who are part of the “squeezed” generation, in which we find ourselves caring for both the younger and older generations at the same time, whilst trying to hold down (and progress in) a career. All these obligations must give and take to, with and from each other. They must find a balance, a way to coexist. Workplaces must make space for employees to find time for aging and sick parents as there isn’t enough time only outside of working hours. Those that do will find themselves with a far more caring and loyal workforce.

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