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A Balancing Act: Family Caregiving Obligations and Your Career

Balancing family caregiving responsibilities with a career can be challenging for even the most experienced professional. The late nights and often sudden needs for assistance can leave you feeling exhausted and can even impact your performance at work. Though it may be a difficult conversation to have, being transparent about your caregiving responsibilities with your employer can actually help to relieve stress in the long run. By speaking candidly with your supervisor, you can get on the same page and discuss your — and the company’s — expectations.

Weigh Your Options Carefully

According to a 2014 Caring.com survey conducted by Pretell Market Research, 15 percent of family caregivers leave the workforce as a result of their added responsibilities. However, leaving your job isn’t necessarily a good option, even if you can afford it. A study from the Metlife Mature Market Institute shows that the average financial loss to adults 50 years and over who quit a job to care for a loved one is around $303,880. And this isn’t just money you’ll be missing today — it also impacts your retirement accounts and Social Security benefits.

Instead, consider whether telecommuting, a more flexible schedule, changing shifts, or cutting back to part-time employment might benefit you. Knowing what you need from your employer before you meet can help ensure you get the support you need.

Have the Conversation

Explain your caregiving situation to your supervisor, and ask for the kind of support that you believe would best allow you to continue your role with the company. You may be surprised how understanding and accommodating your employer can be. In fact, almost 50 percent of family caregivers have had to adjust their work schedules to accommodate caregiving responsibilities.

Some companies have policies specifically created for employees who are caregivers and offer benefits or services designed to help. Many companies will work with employees to allow working from home or to create a more flexible work schedule, ensuring that employees keep their jobs as long as all required tasks are completed.

If you find that you need more dedicated time off, you can consider taking unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you live in the United States and work for a company with more than 50 employees, you may qualify for up to 12 weeks unpaid leave. Your company’s human resources department should be able to tell you if you’re eligible.

Manage the Stress

Even with the understanding and support of your employer, balancing the responsibilities of work and life can be difficult. Caregiver stress relief is key to ensuring you can perform well at work and still help out at home. Making time for yourself and maintaining any previous hobbies are key to ensuring your overall well-being. If you need someone to provide occasional respite care, consider these options:

  • Family members who may not be able to commit full time but may be willing to care for a loved one a few hours a week
  • Professional caregivers such as senior day care centers and home health aides
  • Free or low-cost companionship programs run by local religious organizations or social service agencies

Family caregiving can be stressful on its own. Add in a career or a taxing job, and things become even more difficult. Talking with your employer about the support you need to continue to do your job may be the best way to reduce this stress.

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