Providing care for a loved one is a rewarding experience, and yet it can also be very stressful, especially if you’re trying to balance your career and elder care responsibilities. More than 75 percent of the 42 million caregivers are currently juggling a career and elder care, and that number is only estimated to grow as the elder population increases. In response to these statistics, it is now more important than ever for caregivers to find balance in their lives.
Here is a list of the top ten tips for juggling a career and elder care according to Amy Goyer, an AARP caregiving expert and author of the book “Juggling Work and Caregiving.”
- Be honest with your employer. If you are upfront with your employer, he/she is much more likely to be understanding of your situation. But on the other hand, if you consistently take time off or are stressed at work without explaining why, chances are your employer will think you are lazy or disinterested in your work. In these situations, it’s not a good idea to leave your personal life at home.
- Take advantage of your company’s leave options. Employees may be hesitant to take time off in this competitive job market, but an increasing amount of companies are encouraging working caregivers. About 75 percent of companies now offer working caregivers both paid and unpaid leaves for 12 weeks, which is a great resource to use if your loved one experienced a recent illness or injury.
- Limit your work days. Another option is to work three to four days a week for longer hours and have off the other days of the workweek. Although those will be much longer work days, it will certainly give you more time to provide care for your loved one.
- Change your work hours. If your employer isn’t very open to the idea of you working a compressed workweek, see if you can change your work hours. For example, if your loved one needs more help in the morning, ask if you can start work at 10:00 instead of 9:00 to help them when they need it most. Sharing a job or working part-time may also be an option.
- Telecommute. Working from home may seem unappealing to employers, but if it allows you to be the most productive while supporting your loved one, it may be a viable option to consider, even if you are only permitted to telecommute occasionally.
- Realize you’re not alone. Feeling alone is one of the worst things a caregiver can experience, which is why it is so important to have a support system of friends, family, and fellow caregivers. Sharing your caregiver duties with siblings can also help, especially if your employer allows you to limit your work days.
- Take advantage of adult daycares or respite care programs. If you’re experiencing high anxiety, adult daycares and respite care programs are a great way to take a break while a short-term caregiver handles your typical duties.
- Don’t view caregiving as a chore. Especially in our busy lives, it can become easy to view caregiving as simply another chore on our list of things to do. But remember that as a caregiver, you are given the opportunity to spend quality time with your parents, so be sure to have fun with them.
- Make time for yourself. This is perhaps one of the most helpful tips. It may be tough, but even something as simple as setting a regular exercise or sleep schedule can go a long way.
- Hire a caregiver. If things become too difficult, hire a caregiver. Caregiving is certainly not an easy thing to do, and if you do not believe that you will be able to give your loved one the best care possible, then it is better to hire someone who can.
Although it is difficult, juggling a career and elder care is an important skill to learn, so take note of these tips and remember that you’re not alone in this contemporary dilemma that affects millions.