Balancing your work and caregiving responsibilities can be difficult. You are not alone in trying to find enough time to do it all. We are often looking into questions about how to keep your career going, while caring for an aging parent or how to do remote work with your parent at home. How you answer these questions will vary based on your available resources, family, the needs of your aging loved one, and much more. Living in a dual role - caregiver and employee - can feel like making hundreds of choices each day and missing out on certain opportunities. These realities are why it is important to take proactive thought and actions.
To help you meet this challenge head-on, we’ve pulled together some suggestions to help you find a more realistic balance of duties but remember to explore resources and information available through your area agency on aging.
Discuss Your Caregiving Role with Your Employer
Have a direct conversation about your situation with your supervisor. This will create an open dialogue about your needs and may shed light on some available resources you were not aware of. Be willing to compromise and find what will work best for you, your employer, and your family. Do your research and be open-minded when discussing this sensitive subject with your employer. For more information on the potential benefits available, check out our blog Caregiving Resources Offered Through the Workplace.
You will find many options when talking with your employer and should consider preparing some notes and research on the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as well as employee assistance programs. You will undoubtedly be concerned about your job security and should be open to what your employer offers. Be sure to inquire about your health insurance coverage while on leave or managing at-home care especially if your work hours change.
Be Proactive With Your Work Schedule
If you can, do as much planning ahead as possible with your work and personal schedule. You might do this by:
- Telecommuting to work if possible for days you need to be physically present at home
- Switching some of your shifts with a colleague
- If you need to be available for your aging parent’s appointments, try and schedule them around times that work for you (i.e. during your lunch hour, early morning or evening)
- Create contingency plans for when you need to be out of the office
Ask For Help When You Need It
While it can sometimes be difficult for caregivers to ask for and accept help, it’s impossible to do everything on your own. To prevent caregiver burnout, you need to be comfortable asking for help when you need it. In a recent blog post, Caring Village Vice President and Co-Founder Ron Novak described how you can get help with caregiving tasks. His blog outlines both the paid and free options available, to help you build a village of people and get the help you need to take care of you and your loved one.
Work-Life Balance and Flexible Work Options
You can utilize many different types of work schedules (alternative work schedules, flex time, part-time) but when you telecommute and work from home, you need to be aware of how to balance your work-life and be a family caregiver. If you are able to work remotely and care for your aging parent, consider some of the following quick tips:
- Find a separate space in your home to designate your worksite and leave work there
- Share your role as a family caregiver to your colleagues
- Use a headset in your home
- Be available for when your parent needs you (i.e. to take medication, go up-and-down stairs and other activities of daily living
- Recognize when you are stressed and need a break
- Have a start and end to your workday to prevent work-creep
- Take breaks throughout the day to prevent burnout
- Make sure you have the technology and resources to support working at home
Know Your Limits
As a family caregiver, you need to set your physical and emotional boundaries. This will help you with managing expectations with others, balancing your tasks, and focusing on your self-care. To do this:
- Define your physical boundaries i.e. the space and distance you need between you and others. Figure out how much time you need to recharge. Everyone’s personal space is different so be respectful of others’ requests as well.
- Define your emotional boundaries which focuses on your own understanding of your needs and wants for yourself and from others. This will help you manage your communication and interactions with others.
- Share these boundaries with your family, loved ones, and co-workers (when appropriate).
Balancing your work and caregiver responsibilities can be a challenge. Try different ways of managing your work-life and family caregiver balance. Follow the tips above to help you balance your many roles and responsibilities. Be open to discuss with your family and other family caregivers what has worked. The effort you put in now to set boundaries, create an open and trustworthy dialogue with your employer, and ask for help when you need it will help you immeasurably each and every day.