Jill Mitchell is 46 years old, works full time and spends most of her nonworking hours with her mom, Helen.
It's not just because she enjoys her mom's company, although she hastens to note that she does.
Rather, she's a caregiver for her mother, who turned 84 on Monday.
Secretary for her homeowners association, Helen Mitchell is sharp and capable. But she has a host of health issues that put her at risk of choking on food or falling. It's not safe to leave her alone for long.
So Jill lives with Helen and they hire a home care worker to be there while Jill's at work 40 hours a week.
"We are very blessed that we got long-term insurance years ago, so that covers most of her care," Jill Mitchell said. "For 40 hours of home care a week, the insurance covers about 37 hours."
Still, the demands of being there for her mother during nonwork hours and dealing with frequent emergencies can mount.
"It's pretty exhausting," Mitchell said.
Help from her sister lightens the load. So does having employers who empathize with the personal demands on her time.
"They are very understanding and flexible," she said. "If (Mom) calls in with an emergency, they're like, 'Go. Go.' "
"Most of my sick leave I've used for her, and I've taken a few vacation days for her," Mitchell said.
A BOOMING TREND
Mitchell is one of an estimated 24,000 people in the Treasure Valley who hold down jobs in addition to caring for aging parents.
"Based on good national research, at any given time 17 to 20 percent of the workforce is in a caregiving situation, and that average employee caregiver is giving 20 hours of care in addition to working full time," said Stephanie Bender-Kitz, director of the Boise nonprofit Friends in Action. "So they basically have a part-time job in addition to their full-time job."
With an aging population and more workers who stay on the job in their 60s and beyond, that percentage could increase. In about five years, the number of workers with elder-care responsibilities is expected to reach 50 percent, she said.
Friends in Action volunteers provide a range of services to elders and their families, including a frequently offered six-week workshop dubbed "Powerful Tools for Caregivers." Various other local organizations, including the Area Agency on Aging as well as Senior Solutions, readily offer resources and referrals.
Mitchell created a resource paper for the library district that outlines resources for caregivers. But so far, she said, she's been too tired to look into those resources for herself.
TOUGH BUT WORTH IT
Phillip Marsh, 95, still lives alone in his Northwest Boise home, with a few hours of home care each day and an employed daughter, Lisa Scott, who keeps her own residence but serves as Marsh's main family caregiver.
"I'm keeping working because I need to prepare for my own retirement, and I'm helping my father because he would like to stay in his own home, and I want that for him," said Scott, 60, an MRI/X-ray technician for the Veterans Administration in Boise.
Her father is in great shape for his age, Scott said, but it was surprising to her how much care he needs.
"It's really tough, but it's worth it," she said. "I'm really lucky to have siblings and an agency I can lean on. It's good to have places you can hire that are so caring and loving."
Workers from ABC Home Health come into Marsh's home for a couple of hours at morning and evening, helping him with bathing, hard-to-put-on compression socks, meals and laundry.
ABC administrator Pete Amador, whose agency also helps the Mitchell family, said more and more of its clients are women in their 40s or 50s who have full-time jobs and need help caring for their parents or in-laws.
"We see more and more of it every day," he said.
Helen Mitchell said the home care she receives is a huge help, but she is particularly appreciative of her daughter, Jill.
"She works all day and then when she comes home she makes me supper and cares for me, helps me shower, makes sure I take my pills," Helen said. "She just does everything I need to have done.
"We enjoy each other. We've become not only daughter-mother, but friends."
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447