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Keywords:

  • Elderly;
  • employee;
  • family;
  • informal care;
  • phenomenological hermeneutics

Scand J Caring Sci; 2011; 25; 285–293 Seeking a balance between employment and the care of an ageing parent

Rationale:  A growing number of middle-aged people are engaged in informal care of their parents while employed. To provide support as employers, co-workers or staff, health care professionals need insight into the experiences of people managing these responsibilities.

Aim:  To elucidate the experience of providing informal care to an ageing parent while managing the responsibilities of a working life.

Methods:  Narrative interviews were performed with 11 persons with experience of the phenomenon. Transcribed interviews were analysed with phenomenological hermeneutics.

Ethics:  Informed consent was given prior to the interviews. The study was approved by a research ethics committee.

Findings:  Providing informal care to an ageing parent while also pursuing a working life implies seeking balance: a balance between providing support to the parent’s needs and one’s responsibilities at work. Being employed supports this balance as it provides both fulfilment and refuge. Being capable of managing both roles grants a sense of satisfaction, supporting one’s sense of balance in life. The balance can be supported by sharing the responsibility of caring for the ageing parent with others.

Study limitations:  Despite perceived saturation and an effort to provide for the possibility to consider internal consistency, the findings should be considered as a contribution to the understanding of the phenomenon, as experienced by individuals in their life world.

Conclusions:  It is essential to recognise the impact that providing care for an ageing parent may have on the lives of a growing number of people, particularly if they have employment responsibilities. Acknowledgement by others supports one’s ability to attain balance; as co-workers and managers, we can acknowledge the efforts of an informal caregiver and as health care staff recognise the valuable contribution made by people in mid-life who provide informal care for their ageing parents.