Parenting Upward

The Working Caregiver: Elder Care and Working

working caregivers face extra stress

Being a working caregiver adds a new dimension of stress and obligation.

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, nearly 60 percent of caregivers work full time
and  the majority, 2/3, of these informal working caregivers will at some point need to make adjustments in their work schedule to continue to meet their obligations.

Work Life Balance is a great buzz word, or phrase, these days with many tips, tricks, life-hacks, and guides to achieving it.  However, when you are a caregiver it is not so simple, it suddenly becomes work-life-care giving balance. Every situation is unique when it comes to elder care, there is no magic bullet or formula that will work for everyone. The best way to tackle the issue is to look at the common sense  steps in any improvement program, since we are wanting to improve the quality of our work-life-care giving situation:

  • Honestly assess your situation(s)
  • Learn about your resources
  • Weigh your options
  • Implement a plan
  • Adjust as necessary

Adapted from Elder Care:  A Six Step Guide to Balancing Work and Family,
John Paul Marosy, 2002

Honestly assess your situation(s)

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when faced with care-giving, as well as work and other obligations. Once you start to feel overwhelmed it is important to take a step back and look at each component of the situation separately. Making a list or free writing about your stress triggers or worries can help you to clear your mental blocks and think objectively about your options. As a working caregiver, perhaps begin by assessing your employment:

  • What do you enjoy or find fulfilling about your job?
  • What are the cons or the stresses related to your job?
  • Do you feel the same way about your job as you did before you became a caregiver?
  • What, if anything, has changed at work other than your obligation to be a caregiver?
  • In the perfect situation, what would make your job easier to handle/more fulfilling?

Learn about your resources, Weigh your Options, Implement a plan and Adjust

Since we are focusing for the time being on the work part of work life balance, lets continue the trend with the next step, learning about your resources.   What are your resources? The most obvious one is your co-workers. There may be other co-workers in your same situation who can tell you what worked or did not work them. You may also find allies who are willing to cover for you or adjust their schedule to help cover an alternative schedule for you.
The next resource to consider is your boss or supervisor.  Talking to your employer about care giving obligations and changing needs is often the most nerve-wrecking situation for a working caregiver, so here are some steps to help you go about it logically:

Be sure that you and your boss have a clear understanding of your job duties and tasks.   You cannot productively discuss alternatives without being on the same page about what your job actually entails and requires of you.

  • Think about what your boss really needs to know relative to your work life
  • Be specific, offer suggestions to continue to do your job well and meet your care giving obligations
  • Be sure to include how these changes or adjustments can/will benefit your team or company
  • Suggest a trial period to test any new work arrangements and a plan to re-adjust

If you are stressed and distracted then it will eventually show in your work output, so it is much better to come to your supervisor, foreseeing these issues with a fix and  plan in mind, than it is to let your work quality suffer and your supervisor have no idea why.

Remember, you are being paid to do a job. Try to keep yourself focused on your work tasks and obligations and use your break times or lunch times to deal with personal matters. The same goes for the use of company resources, such as e-mail, phones, printers and internet access. 

Another great resource is to talk to your HR department or benefits coordinator. Be sure that you are familiar with your companies policies on the Family Medical Leave Act and any Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) which can range from access to a mental health hotline help to discounts on various services and products.

Have you had to talk to your boss or supervisor about changing your work schedule or tasks to be a working caregiver? Do you feel that you are thriving or just surviving as a working caregiver? Comment below and let us know what you questions you have or what has worked for you. Next week, we will look at using this same strategy to assess the care giving side of a work-life-care giving balance. In the meantime, check out Medicare.gov’s page for caregivers.