Are you one of the nearly 20% of Americans who works at a job while caring for a loved one at home? Caregiving for a loved one is stressful enough, but trying to manage a full or even part-time job simultaneously can be downright grueling. Here are five tips on how to balance caregiving while keeping your employer happy.
1. Don’t expect your employer to anticipate what’s going on. While most employers know what to expect when an employee has a new baby, they have no idea how to support an employee who is caregiving. When an employee becomes a parent, maternity, and even more recently even paternity, leave is the norm. Typically there is a workplace plan in place because this type of leave is expected. Many bosses, even sensitive ones, are less experienced in anticipating the countless challenges caregivers of older loved ones face.
2. Make an appointment with Human Resources. What support can they offer? Many organizations are required to offer Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but are there other benefits available through the workplace health insurance plan or an employee assistance program? Perhaps your employer would be open to flexible hours, telecommuting, an abbreviated work week or longer sabbatical if you need more time off than FMLA can provide.
3. Keep communicating with your employer. If your manager agrees to change your work duties or schedule to accommodate your caregiving, make sure you honor this agreement fully. Keep your employer abreast if you are not going to be able to hold up your end of the deal for any reason. Document your conversations so you can refer back to them if there is ever a problem on either end.
4. Don’t quit your job before thinking it through. Many caregivers take early retirement or quit their job entirely to take care of an older loved one. While this might be the right decision for you and your family, it is important to seriously consider the financial and emotional consequences. It may be much more cost-effective in the long term for you to keep working but hire help for your loved one.
5. Seek help outside the office. While it’s helpful if your employer understands your caregiving challenges, you will likely benefit from support outside the workplace. While your coworkers and boss may be accommodating you, they should not be a dumping ground for all your stress. Consider whether you could use the assistance of a non-profit that specializes in your loved one’s health issue. Some examples include the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org); American Heart Association (www.heart.org); American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the Anxiety & Depression Association of American (www.adaa.org).
Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.