Wanted: real advice for long-distance caretaking

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I’ve long ago blurred the line between what’s appropriate material for a work blog and what’s totally not. So I figure this is as good a place as any to mention what was foremost on my mind this morning as I headed in to work: the little creature inside me—whom we’ve been calling Blurgh because that’s how it made me feel for the first four months—has a gender. It’s a weenie little girl.

Or at least that’s what should be foremost on my mind. Happy news, right? Especially for our daughter, who’s insisted she’d send back anything with a weenie. And for me, because I’m cheap and now I get to recycle baby clothes. Even for my husband, who has long ago given in to the estrogen palace that is our household.

But as we left the antepartum screening unit at the hospital, I got a call on my cell from my sister. Seems crisis time has ratcheted up back home, with both my parents now in severe medical—and mental—distress.

We had spent the weekend in Orlando, where I did a bit of reporting but also snuck off for a family visit to Disneyworld. More on that later. But while we were getting ready in the hotel room, there was this report on CNN about caring for parents long-distance. My husband called me from the bathroom, and I hurriedly grabbed a notepad to see what valuable information this report would impart.

No huge surprise: it was your typical TV soft-news report, which means it consisted entirely of b.s. The two so-called tips that flashed on the screen were to 1) develop a network of local people to help watch after your parents, and b) find an e-mail friendly doctor.

What kind of crap advice is that? I ask you. What about dealing with the emotional stress of juggling work, family and really sick parents who are 8,000 miles away? What about strategies for negotiating FMLA to care for them? What about managing the important relationships that are affected by your bifurcated state of mind: your spouse, your child, your boss?

To be fair: CNN.com posted this article to accompany the flimsy TV report, which has more comprehensive information. It says

Between 5 million and 7 million Americans care for an older relative from afar — at least one hour away, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.

I’m not a baby boomer, but I know most of those millions are members of their generation. (I’d love to know how many of them have parents living overseas…any leads?) Yet it regularly gets shunted aside in the hottest arena of debate right now in this country, which is of course the presidential race.

Let’s get a real dialogue going about this topic, folks. What are our options? What are the best resources? Which employers have innovative programs designed to help workers deal?

And who has a maternity-friendly Percoset?

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