“One thing that is ever present is that people don’t realize all they're doing in terms of caregiving until they are deeply into it,” he said. “They just think of themselves as daughters caring for their family and don’t recognize how much they are doing to balance the new demands caregiving has on their lives.”
A lack of preparation for these overwhelming demands is one of the main reasons people give up on their careers, quitting their job and missing out on professional and financial opportunities, said Yost. Experts agree that talking about caregiving arrangements in advance is the single most important way to prevent becoming overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities, even when those conversations are hard to have.
If caregiving is going to be part of someone's life, the conversation needs to happen with not just parents and siblings, but also employers about the new needs and demands is crucial to maintaining health and financial stability, Yost said. “It all begins with communication,” she said.
Jacqueline Marcell, who wrote a book on elder care, "Elder Rage," after dealing with the impact taking care of parents with Alzheimer's had on her own career as a television executive, emphasized that, “There’s no magical way to handle it on your own. You must get help.”
Marcell said people don’t realize all the small tasks they do, and recommended making a list of tasks — from sitting with parents to getting groceries — that people who ask how they can help can do for you.
There’s no safety net for caregivers, added Yost, and so it’s up to individuals to help themselves and work for change. She analogized the current state of the issue to the 1980s when women were afraid to talk to employers about child care, which eventually became a big enough social issue that companies adopted new policies in order to retain their talent.
“We’re the pioneers of a long-lived society," Yost added. "It’s a great time for us to all stand up and say, ‘Yes this is an issue, it affects all of us and we need to do something about it.’ And it starts with conversations.”