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Coping with caregiver issues and career

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It's a growing issue: adults learning to balance career and being a caregiver for an aging or ailing parent.

"It's a subject we are all going to have to think about," said Jill Faulkenberry, a former caregiver who also works in human resources at the architectural firm, FreemanWhite.

Her time came when her mom developed renal failure and passed away in 2011. The family took turns at the doctor and they lived day-to-day figuring out who could do what.

They wanted to be there, but it was tough.

"We all have lives, we all have jobs, we all have family," said Faulkenberry speaking about how hard it was to strike a balance. Faulkenberry says her employer's flexibility was a saving grace.

There were times she had to grab her purse and run out the door to respond to her mother's need.

Faulkenberry calls FreemanWhite compassionate workplace. Her boss says it's part of their work culture.

"It's just something you build over time," said Frank Brooks, President and CEO. "Consequently, we have a lot of loyalty and a lot of people who are dedicated," he said.

Not every workplace is so well-equipped to handle the needs of employees and their families. Some business owners have to take baby steps.

"Two years ago, we had four family members pass away in a two month period and we were caregivers to all of them," said Becky Keenan with Workflex Partners. 

"I was able to see what corporations are facing as the employer, and what employees are facing," said Keenan. She is helping to organize a forum Thursday, November 15th, at Queens University. It's designed to help employers find solutions. Registration is still open, click here for more information.

"I want them to be able to see there are some best practices for workplace flexibility. It is something that has to happen. It has to take place," she said.

"There are ways companies can reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and profits through workplace flexibility," added Keenan. Technology, a team office set-up, and flexible hours can help.

AARP says the time is now.

The average caregiver, usually a woman, spends 20 hours a week providing care for a loved one over five years. That's the equivalent of a part-time job.

It can also be a financial hardship, when the woman loses work hours, has to quit her job, or misses a promotion. She's also more likely to suffer a stress-related illness.

Faulkenberry says, at first, the conversation was scary to bring up. However,  they made it work.

"It was one of the most important aspects of the entire process we went through," she said.

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