After suffering a stroke, Elizabeth Petry’s 86-year-old mother-in-law was unable to walk or use her left hand. It was then that Petry and her husband took on the role of caregivers for his aging parents. They oversaw their day-to-day needs, became their decision makers, and eventually moved next door to them.
A year after her mother-in-law’s stroke, Petry’s father-in-law died from a heart attack. Petry and her husband went from living next door to living with her mother-in-law.
“Her health was failing tremendously,” said Petry, an administrative assistant for the Legal Department’s contracts section. “We could see she was dying before us.”
Since Petry continued to work full time and her own husband was recovering from a stroke, they hired hospice caregivers to help during the day. But each day after work, Petry would take over.
“I would go home and feed her dinner, keep her company and then clean her up for bedtime,” Petry said.
“It is a daunting task and it takes a lot time and energy,” Petry said of the many responsibilities, scheduling care shifts among relatives, having to take over her mother-in-law’s finances, helping to set up a will, and working with the family to set up funeral arrangement for her in-laws.
Looking back, Petry believes planning ahead for the care and needs of her aging in-laws would have helped tremendously.
Petry’s in-laws had not made wills or advance funeral arrangements.
“They didn’t think of planning ahead. You need to think about that. Make those choices now before it’s too late,” Petry said.
Petry and her husband are not alone.
An estimated 34.2 million American adults have served as an unpaid caregiver to someone age 50 or older in the previous year, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.
“No one wants to think about their parents getting sick or old,” said Annetta Vaughn, Senior EAP Counselor.
“But one day you could end up as their caregiver and if so, you need to be prepared. Thankfully, city employees have resources available to help them.”
Whether you are serving as a caregiver to aging parents or want to learn more about planning ahead, this list of resources can help you navigate either:
Employee Assistance Program
If your role as a caregiver is causing stress and impacting your personal or work life, you can turn to the city’s Employee Assistance Program, a benefit provided by the city to employees and their family members.
EAP is free and confidential and can help employees resolve personal and work problems.
Through EAP, city employees can benefit from internal counseling to help to resolve personal and work problems.
Appointments with the internal counselors are available by calling 832-393-6510.
If you need help finding services such as a home health agency, adult day care, or other services, you can call the external EAP Guidance Resources.
Counselors are available for employees who experience problems with personal issues, planning for life events, or simply managing daily life.
The Guidance Resources is the single source for confidential support, expert information and valuable resources, when you need it the most.
Call 855-378-7485 any time 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To find online resources, such as helpful articles about elder care, log on to guidance resources.
You must first register with the site. You will need the city’s Web ID HOUSTONEAP to do so.
Through Guidance Resources, you can access Estate Guidance.
The site offers educational articles about estate planning and tools for creating legal documents such as a will, a living will concerning your wishes about medical treatment if you are no longer able to express informed consent, and final arrangements.
City of Houston employees can receive a 25 percent discount off the last will and testament and living will with the promotional code HOUSTONEAP.
The documents will be $14.99 each with your code.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act entitles you to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave each benefit year (Sept. 1-Aug. 31) for specified family and medical reasons.
To be eligible for FMLA benefits you must have worked for the city for at least 12 months and have been physically at work for at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period preceding the date leave begins.
You are required to use your accrued paid leave (vacation or sick time in the case of your own illness) in order to be compensated while on FMLA leave. Visit http://www.houstontx.gov/hr/benefits/fmla.html to learn more.
The City of Houston has a Dependent Care Reimbursement Plan offered by WageWorks, a pre-tax benefit account that can be used to pay for elder daycare services.
An adult tax dependent, such as a parent, who is not able to care for him or herself and who lives in your home a minimum of eight hours a day can qualify for the plan.
Visit http://www.houstontx.gov/hr/benefits/dpndnt_care_rmbrsmnt.html to learn more.
The Harris County Area Agency on Aging is part of a nationwide network of agencies coordinating supporting services for adults 60 years or older and their caregivers.