Many adults are facing tough decisions about how best to both care for their parents and earn a living. More and more, people are orchestrating career transitions around the needs of their aging parents. Job seekers are increasingly utilizing the services of AgeWell Cincinnati partner organization JVS Career Services because they have quit their jobs and left their communities to move to Cincinnati to be closer to their parents. Managing the day-to-day medical needs of their parents proved too much from a distance.
According to AARP, one out of every six employees in the US provides care for a relative or friend. And the number is growing as people are living longer and requiring more complex care.
What constitutes being a caregiver? Might you be a caregiver and not even realize it? Are you helping a family member or parent with grocery shopping, picking up medications and organizing them for the week, cooking some meals, calendaring doctors’ appointments, providing or figuring out transportation, administering medications, or helping with personal care like bathing? You are a caregiver if you are providing any of these services to a loved one.
Balancing work and caregiving responsibilities is often challenging and can negatively impact your employment and career advancement. The attempt at balancing can also negatively impact the emotional, financial, and personal health concerns of the caregiver.
Here a few suggestions to help mitigate some of the issues related to caregiving spilling into your work.
Speak honestly with your boss. While it seems counterintuitive, you will have to have an honest conversation about your situation and caregiving responsibilities with your manager. The sooner you have this conversation, the better. Managers value good employees and will want to work with you to come up with solutions that work for your family and the organization. Keeping this in mind, go into the meeting with some possible solutions, but keep in mind that your solution might not be the only one. Consider trial periods that could be continued if found successful. Finally, be open to compromise.
Utilize FMLA. Educate yourself on the Family and Medical Leave Act and whether or not your organization offers this benefit. Eligible employees have up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave without the loss of job or health benefits to care for a spouse, child, or parent with serious health conditions. Speak with your Human Resources professional about whether or not this is an option for you. If not, ask your HR professional or the person who handles HR issues about other options, including extended illness leave or short term disability.
“Managers value good employees and will want to work with you to come up with solutions that work for your family and the organization.”
Think about hiring a Care Manager/Aging Life Care Professional. While every situation is unique, most of the solutions have a commonality. Engage an expert in the field of Geriatric Care Management. Jewish Family Service’s CareLink offers this service. They can provide the answers at a time of uncertainty. Their guidance leads to decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for your loved ones, reducing worry, stress, and time off of work.
Delegate activities and stay organized. Delegation and organization are critical to keeping up with all the activities of caregiving. Create shared to-do lists and calendars where additional caregivers and family members can participate and stay up-to-date. Having these shared tools also makes it easier to delegate activities.
Plan appointments. Work hard at minimizing the time you spend away from your job by scheduling your loved one’s doctor and therapy appointments early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or on weekends when possible.
Don’t forget to show appreciation. You can assume that your coworkers may have to cover and assist with aspects of your professional job responsibilities when you are not in the office. Thank them frequently, and when possible, offer to help your colleagues with their needs. Also, don’t forget to thank your supervisor.
Finally, and most importantly, take care of yourself. Recognize that stress, situational depression, exhaustion, and anxiety are common among caregivers. Give yourself permission to prioritize and fit “me time” into your calendar without guilt on a regular basis.