Career and Caregiving as Related to Private Practice

Sue Aiken, Interviewer

This is the second in a series of my conversations with authors of important career-related topics.  The following questions were sent to Sally Gelardin for her responses which are given, in part, below.

Why is "career and caregiving" such a timely topic?

First, let's define the topic family caregivingA family caregiver is usually an adult family member who is an informal provider of in-home or in-community care to another, more needy, individual in the family. It's a two-way street - we all both give care and need to be taken care of, at some point in our lives, often simultaneously. 

How does caregiving relate to career counselors in private practice?

Currently, most support for family caregivers comes from community agencies and national organizations composed primarily of nurses, gerontologists, social workers, and marriage and family counselors. Professionals in other fields, such as financial advisors, lawyers, medical doctors, and human resource personnel, are beginning to focus on the challenges of family caregivers.  Since family caregivers comprise 13% of the workforce, career counselors in private practice can expand their expertise to serve this "shadow workforce." We must become familiar with ways we can serve needs of working caregivers that are not currently being met; i.e., short-term transition counseling, move-management, exploration of work/live options, assessment of and application of strengths to the caregiving situation, setting up a caregiving team. 

The U.S. and European nations have an aging and longer living population, which means more caregiving responsibilities and work challenges. According to the Center on an Aging Society, Georgetown University, nearly one-third (32%) of all primary family caregivers, regardless of age, are in the labor force.  Among primary caregivers of working age, more than half (58%) are employed and most of those employed (83 %) are working full time.

Working caregivers have housing and work challenges.  Many are long-distance caregivers or need to be continually available for their aging parents or spouses.  Two-thirds of working caregivers providing assistance to a family member or friend aged 65+, decreased their work hours or took unpaid leave in order to meet their caregiving duties.

Caregiving takes a toll on employers, as well as employees. The cost to businesses to replace female caregivers who quit their jobs because of their caregiving responsibilities is estimated at $3.3 billion annually. The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who has at least some college experience and provides more that 20 hours of care each week.   

How did you become interested in the topic of "career and caregiving?"

After moving my mother, father-in-law and his wife, I became aware of the challenges aging individuals face when they are moved from their home.   I also became aware of the challenge of caring for older loved ones, especially while needing to earn an income.  Then, as I began to interview colleagues who have caregiving responsibilities, I discovered that the responsibility of caregiving elders often transforms the lives of working adults.  I asked 14 colleagues to write about their experiences balancing career and caregiving because I wanted to give the readers an opportunity to realize caregivers are not alone and that there are many ways to manage the career/caregiving challenge.

What are the highlights of the book?

I organized the monograph around the personal stories of leading career professionals who have experienced major personal caregiving situations, such as NCDA members Ed Colozzi, Anna Miller-Tiedeman, Lynn Joseph, Marilyn Harryman, and Gail Liebhaber. I also invited related professionals to share their caregiving experiences, such as Sherri Baptiste, Fanita English and Eugene Muscat. Leading career coaches and educators, such as Pamela McLean, Maureen White, and Mary McCall also wrote their caregiving stories. Former corporate executive Louise Morman totally changed her work after caregiving for her mother and father at the same time. Donna Brouns, our youngest caregiver contributor, took time off from her counseling position while caring for her mother. Lynn Goodwin made a career by supporting caregivers in writing their own stories.

These personal caregiver stories of career and other service professionals are organized around the stages of:

Within each section/stage, contributors wrote their caregiving story and discussed what they learned from their caregiving experience.

Could you summarize your thoughts on career and caregiving?

Roots of caregiving and career are the same. "Carrera" is a cart that carries passengers over a bumpy road.  Career professionals are very capable in helping clients manage the career decision-making process that carries passengers over a bumpy road.  If we think of the role of caregiver as the designated driver on a life journey that can take one in many directions, rather than as one road, then the role of family caregivers becomes richer, more variable, and open to exploration of alternative decision-making options. Career professionals are so skillful in helping clients manage the career decision-making process, that with additional later- or end-of-life training, they can learn how to guide clients through the career and caregiving decision-making process

Unexpected situations may place care for a loved one over work commitments. If we view our aging process and caregiving responsibilities as a work in process, then we become less focused on the results and more on paying attention to each moment.  With this approach in mind, we can lift the veil off the "shadow workforce" of caregivers.

My thanks to Sally for researching, contemplating and writing about a timely subject we are all impacted by at some time in our lives. 


For more information on LeaveLight Circle, view http://www.integralaging.org or email info@integralaging.org

NCDA Conference Roundtable on "Slow Career:  Creating a Slow and Sustainable Lifestyle. http://ncda.org.

Certificate Training in Integral Aging. http://campus.digication.com/integralaging/Educational_Programs.

Center on Aging Society, Georgetown University. Caregiving and Paid Work: Are there trade-offs? Data Profile, No.4, August, 2005. P. 6


Sally Gelardin Sally Gelardin, Ed.D., interviewee, is author of Career & Caregiving:  Empowering the Shadow Workforce of Family Caregivers (NCDA, 2009),  "The Emerging Workforce Caregiving Housing Dilemma (The Business Renaissance Quarterly, Summer, 2009), and "Aging in Place and Live/Work Options." Career Planning and Adult Development Journal. Volume 23, Number 4, ISSN 0736-1920. She started the first job club for older workers in Marin County and was co-founder of the San Francisco Spiritual Eldering Group. She interviews career and caregiving experts on Careerwell's tele-interviews, http://careerwell.org. She can be reached at sal@gelardin.net. Website: http://campus.digication.com/careerandcaregiving .

Sue Aiken, the interviewer, is the Associate Editor of Career Convergence's Independent Department.  She can be reached at saiken001@charter.net

Dr. Gelardin's monograph, Career & Caregiving: Empowering the Shadow Workforce of Family Caregivers, is available online in the NCDA Career Resource Store.

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