Juggling Work and Caregiving: Successful Balance Is Possible

Finding balance is a challenge for any caregiver, and juggling work and caregiving can sometimes mean missed time at work or even presenteeism. Many caregivers must work to support themselves and their families, but know that their roles as primary caregivers are vital. A successful work-life balance is absolutely possible — but it takes a flexible employer, a strong support network, and a shift in outlook.

Employers Can Make Juggling Work and Caregiving Easier
The needs of working caregivers can change over time as family caregiving duties increase or decrease. Understanding employers can ease the work-life balance and retain quality employees by offering things like a flexible starting time, telecommuting days, or a corporate culture that does not guilt or shame workers when they need time off as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. This is particularly beneficial for employers, as 60 percent of the oldest caregivers (ages 50–64) are working adults.

If your employer isn’t on board with flexibility, here are some things to consider:

  • Discuss options with your human resources department if your direct supervisor is inflexible.
  • Understand your rights. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, for instance, you are allowed to take up to a three-month leave from work for certain family issues.
  • Many of the top companies offer flex time for their employees. Stress the workplace benefits of this to your employer (rather than your own work-life balance) when talking about possible options.

Develop a Strong Support Network
Juggling work and caregiving is significantly more difficult without a support system. It’s best to get your family caregiving team in place before you’re stressed and in need of help. From the beginning, develop a checklist that helps you identify areas where you’ll need assistance, like someone to check in on your parent during the day, a family member who can help you communicate the needs of your parent to the rest of the group, or a home health aide who can perform regular checkups. A medical alert device , which gives you and your senior 24/7 access to a response center, might also help give you a little extra breathing room in your caregiving.

Change in Approach
Even if you’re an older adult’s primary caregiver, you can have others help you in a variety ways, such as running errands, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and checking in on her. A sibling who can call (even if he lives long distance) and check in on your parent can prevent you from having to run home at lunch. A health aide who is able to help your parent bathe a couple times a week can ease your schedule after work.

Family caregiving is a personal subject, so it’s difficult to mentally separate yourself. But if you approach it like a project manager, who looks at the big picture and assigns tasks to a team rather than trying to do it all yourself, juggling work and caregiving can be that much easier.

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