Caregivers Need Time Off Too

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My parents are both in 80s, and live on their own. My mother who has had heart problems for a long time and had a surgery for cancer few years ago, has been struggling in silence since then.  She weighs some 80 lbs, is fraile, wants to stay home, and won’t go to the hospital.  My father who is in late 80s has been healthy, has cared for her all these years since her surgery.

And, with the help of a home doctor who lives nearby, nurse and the care person, he has cared for my mother at home.  Though we arrange the housekeeping help who comes every other week, he is the one that cooks, cleans, and cares for her day in and day out.

I go there every week to have either lunch or dinner with them.  I talk about my work, my trip, my book, etc. etc. to keep them informed of my activities.  I also bought them an iPad so that we can communicate via e-mail and they can read my regular blog posts and tweets.

Talking with my father on a recent visit, I suddenly realized that he is the one who needs some help.  I remembered that I needed to take a day off a week when I cared for my husband when he fought cancer.(He passed away after the battle with cancer for 10 years).  He was hospitalized some 30 times (including the test and treatment) over the decade and when he was at the hospital,  I visited him every evening after work so that we could eat supper together and chat.  After I tried the visit everyday of the week, I found myself getting so exhausted both physically and mentally.

Finally, I asked my husband (who passed away 8 years ago after the battle with cancer for 10 years) whether I could take Sunday off.  Off meant that I stay home and not come in to see him in the hospital. Although he was a bit disappointed at first, we managed to make it a routine so that I did not get too exhausted.

I was fortunate as I have a very close friend who always asked me what I was doing for myself during that time. Her advice was to do something for myself so that I could care for him. Otherwise, you will burn out. As a caregiver, you too are in need.

Hearing my father talk today, I felt so bad that I did not realize as I am the one who knows how much energy- both physical and emotional–is required to care for a person who is so sick with such little chance of recovery.

Yoko Ishikura
Yoko Ishikura is a Professor at Hitotsubashi University ICS in the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy in Japan. She has held positions as a professor at the School of International Politics, Economics and Business of Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, as a consultant at McKinsey and Company Inc. Japan and a visiting professor at Darden School.

Professor Ishikura is a consultant to a number of multinational companies and has been a frequent speaker at management conferences, seminars, and workshops throughout the world. She was a member of the Regulatory Reform Committee for the Japanese government and the International Competitiveness Commission for METI. She is currently a Forum Fellow of the World Economic Forum.

She is the author of Strategic Shift from OR choices to AND paradigm, Building Core Skills of Organization , and the co-author of the following publications: Managing Diversity in the 21st Century, Strategy for Cluster Initiatives in Japan , and Building a Career to the World Class Professionals – all in Japanese. Her books in English include: Asian Advantage, Hitotsubashi on Knowledge Management and Trust and Antitrust in Asian Business Alliances.

Professor Ishikura’s current research interests are focused on global competition, innovation, and knowledge management. She received her BA from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan; MBA from Darden School, University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia; and DBA from Harvard Business School.
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