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Caretaking at Salt River Project: An act of love and balance

This time of year is known for its rising temps, but it’s also known as a time of observances: Mother’s Day (May 12), Older Americans Month (May) and Father’s Day (June 16). To celebrate, we are sharing a three-part series that highlights how some of SRP’s hardworking parents and caregivers balance family and work.

The number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double by 2060, according to the Pew Research Center, and as the population ages, caretaking needs increase. This trend is in full swing today, with more than 40 million Americans providing unpaid caretaking to older relatives (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Unpaid caretakers – who are often the adult children of an aging parent – provide this care with love and commitment.

Of course, caretaking of this nature can be a balancing act, especially when it includes a parent who is ill and requires ongoing support.

Sixty-one percent of unpaid caregivers are employed, according to the Pew Study, and nearly half of those work full-time. The additional responsibility of doctor appointments, hospital visits and the day-to-day care of a relative while employed can be a challenge.

Lora Dal Bo, Senior Administrative Technician, Brand Strategy and Insights, felt the challenge acutely – and early on – in her tenure at SRP.

“Two weeks before my start date, my mom had a massive heart attack,” Dal Bo said. “We didn’t know what was happening initially, and I had to push back my first day. After that, and being new, I didn’t want to miss work. So I didn’t let myself miss a single day of that first year, even though my mom was in and out of the hospital, even though she was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 cancer.”

Eventually, she realized she would need help balancing the two worlds.

“I have a lot of support from my manager and my assistant general manager,” she said. “When I need to work from the hospital, they work with me. I’m still able to get my work done while being an advocate for my mom.”

Gina Balmer, a Customer Service Representative and an SRP employee of 19 years, also worked to find solutions that fit both home and work life.

“When my mom was approaching 80 years old, I became her in-home caretaker,” Balmer said. “She had the beginning stages of dementia and was forgetting meals and pills. I made the choice for us to move in together because it was really helpful for me to be there for her, especially at night and in the morning.”

She added, “I worked a Sunday to Wednesday schedule so I could make appointments for her on Thursdays and Fridays. I tapped into FMLA and leaned on vacation to help on days that I wasn’t scheduled off.”

A few years later, she put in a request to be a home-based agent. Shortly after, she was given that position –  something she calls a “blessing” because it helped her stay close to her mom.

“It was such a huge comfort knowing that, when her dementia worsened, I could help provide care during my lunches and breaks if it was needed,” Balmer said

Resources extend beyond balance into active support at SRP, benefits that continue to grow and evolve with the shift in demographics.

Dal Bo said, “SRP offers dementia educational sessions for caregivers, which has been really helpful with my mother-in-law. When she started having memory issues, we didn’t know what to do. You get frustrated. The brown bags helped me see that there are other people who feel the same way and there are ways of handling it.”

SRP’s wellness benefits also include mindfulness-based stress reduction covered by health insurance and the Employee Assistance Program, which provides 10 visits to a counselor annually at no cost. This particular benefit is also available to covered dependents.

“SRP is very supportive,” Balmer said. “Even when I had to take sick days or personal days, they didn’t blink an eye. They knew what I was dealing with and always said that it’s family first.”

Balmer hopes her experience as a caregiver for her mom can help others. Her advice to those in similar situations: Don’t hesitate to accept assistance.

For more than 100 years, SRP has served Arizona by providing the critical resources of water and power. Today, SRP builds upon that mission by ensuring Arizonans who work for our company have access to critical benefits such as maternal and paternal leave, aging parent assistance, adoption support and more.

If you are interested in joining SRP, please join our Talent Pool here.

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