Finding the ideal balance between work and caregiving is easier said than done. Neglecting this delicate balance can hinder your emotional and physical well-being.
According to AARP, employed caregivers “work the equivalent of a full-time job (35.7 hours a week) on top of their caregiving and family responsibilities. More than one in four (28 percent) provide 21 or more hours of unpaid care.”
To maintain a balance between working and caring for an older adult, caregivers often take work days off or sacrifice other work requirements. Straining to balance both roles can lead to neglecting relationships and parenting responsibilities. The good news is that there are methods to promote a work-life balance as a working caregiver.
From improving your organization to developing transparency in the workplace, read on to learn more about juggling multiple hats.
- Methods to Balance Work and Caregiving
- Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Methods to Balance Work and Caregiving
Of the 53 million family caregivers in the U.S., six in ten are balancing a career on top of caregiving. Managing both roles is tough and requires organization, self-prioritization, and assistance.
In some cases, caregiving may inhibit your career, especially if you take frequent off days and seem uncommitted to your supervisors.
Additionally, caregiving is associated with discrimination in the workplace, where individuals are often neglected for promotions, receive lower wages, or experience an unfriendly work environment.
Caregivers may feel stretched between the two roles. Here are some methods to attain a balanced lifestyle between your career and caregiving for an older adult.
Establishing boundaries with your family and loved ones is essential before taking on a caregiver role. They need to understand that you can’t be available at all times.
Setting boundaries involves setting clear expectations for your loved one. Creating these limits will avoid future disputes and demonstrate respect for your time.
Organize a Sustainable Routine
As a caregiver with a job, your organizational skills are put to the test. Resources such as notebooks or a task manager will help you manage time for both roles and leave some for yourself.
You’ll want to prioritize necessary tasks over others to avoid letting things slip through the cracks. Create a family calendar including tasks, appointments, meetings, and preparations to keep everyone updated. The task list can include meal times, medications, and phone calls.
Ask for Professional Assistance
No matter how efficient you are with managing these two roles, you’re bound to need a break every once in a while.
Hiring a temporary in-home caregiver is one way to help with tasks such as companion care for your loved one, meal preparation, and cleaning.
Geriatric care managers can play a pivotal role in alleviating the burden of working caregivers by providing tailored care plans, coordinating services, offering advocacy, and delivering emotional support.
By enlisting the help of a geriatric care manager, working caregivers can ensure that their older family members receive the care they need while maintaining their own well-being and professional success.
Employee Assistance: Check Your Workplace Benefits
Your employer may offer an employee assistance program (EAP) that could include benefits for working caregivers. Check your employee handbook and thoroughly review the benefits section.
You can also talk with the human resources department or your supervisor about your responsibilities at home as a family caregiver.
They may offer flexible work options such as remote work a few days per week, help you transition to part-time, or a hybrid schedule. Also, check for any caregiver counseling benefits to help deal with stress and burnout.
Depending on your line of work, perhaps freelance work would be more fitting for now. You’ll have more control over your work schedule and offers exceptional flexibility when you don’t need to be present for a 9 to 5 job.
The downsides to freelance work are that you don’t have a guaranteed income, no healthcare or other employee-sponsored benefits, and you are in charge of filing your own payroll and respective taxes.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Under your workplace benefits, you may be eligible for FMLA. It offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave protection. You’ll need to care for a parent, spouse, or child, and your employment needs to last for at least a year to meet the requirements.
Plus, your company needs 50 employees or more and should be within 75 miles of your home. The FMLA’s benefit is that you still get health insurance despite the unpaid leave. In addition, you can spread the 12 weeks out.
Make sure to give a 30-day notice to apply for the FMLA. Provide all the necessary documents that disclose your loved one’s medical condition.
At the time of this writing, 13 states and the District of Columbia currently have enacted Paid Family Leave (PFL) laws. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, these state programs provide parental and family caregiving leave as well as temporary disability insurance to cover paid personal medical leave.
States that have PFL laws in effect include:
- the District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
States that have PFL laws, but are not yet in effect include:
- New Hampshire
Create a Backup Plan
Emergencies can happen, and you need a contingency plan if something happens to you or your loved one. Enlist support from close family members, friends, or neighbors.
Make sure they have the contact information for your employer in the event you are unable to be in touch during an emergency. Ideally, your workplace will react with support while you grapple with your emergency.
Prioritize Your Time
It may seem impossible to find extra time for yourself. Nonetheless, self-care time is critical for your emotional, psychological, and physical well-being.
Create a set time or routine to indulge in hobbies such as reading, painting, or running. Prioritize your sleep.
Your mental health is also essential. You can schedule a time to talk to a close friend and share or vent your feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed. If a friend is unavailable, find a caregiver support group where people in similar situations can share helpful ideas.
Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout can happen when your time and effort become increasingly focused on caretaking. Your needs and self-prioritization aren’t prioritized. Consequently, the caretaker becomes emotionally and physically exhausted from being pulled in too many directions.
A few signs of caregiver burnout include sleep pattern changes, irritability, anxiety, lack of focus, and being distant from family and friends.
Here are some tips to prevent caregiver burnout:
Establish Self-Care Goals
Neglecting yourself is the prime cause of burnout. For this reason, you’ll want to create self-care goals such as getting enough sleep or exercising for at least ten minutes outdoors daily.
You’ll also want to focus on maintaining healthy eating habits and take some time to focus on your mental health.
Understand Your Limits
Despite juggling multiple tasks at once, you’re still human. There’s no shame in asking for outside help to manage the workload off your shoulders.
You can seek help from support organizations. Additionally, be realistic about your loved one’s future care needs. There may come a time when they’ll require further assistance that you won’t be able to provide. Plan ahead and understand what resources exist in your community like respite care, assisted living, and home health.
Help can come from various sources. You can contact a therapist, meet with a close friend, or communicate with a caregiver support group. Talking about your frustrations of feeling trapped as a caregiver, not being appreciated by other family members, or sheer exhaustion can help you work through some of these issues.
How can you balance work and caregiving? It all starts with organization, planning, and communication. Calendars, to-do lists, and appointment reminders can keep the tasks from piling up.
Becoming fully transparent with your employer is critical. Your manager and co-workers need to understand that you’re taking on a hefty responsibility both at work and home.
Aside from work and caregiving, you also need to focus on yourself to prevent bouts of caregiver burnout and other mental health issues. No matter how full your schedule is, squeezing in a break for yourself is priority number one. It’ll keep you fueled in the long run and prove more sustainable.
How To Juggle Work and Caregiving Frequently Asked Questions
To manage juggling work and caregiving for an older adult, establish a routine that accommodates both responsibilities and consider seeking support from friends, family, or professional caregivers to share the workload. Explore flexible work arrangements with your employer, such as remote work or adjusted hours, to help balance your professional and caregiving duties.
To help balance work and caregiving for an older adult, access resources such as local caregiver support groups, respite care services, and non-profit organizations that provide assistance and guidance. Consider using online tools, apps, and forums to connect with other caregivers and research government programs and financial assistance options for caregivers.
Prioritize self-care by setting aside time for personal hobbies and relaxation and maintain open communication with your employer regarding your needs and any potential flexibility. Establish a support network of friends, family, and other caregivers to share experiences, advice, and responsibilities, and explore professional respite care services to provide relief when needed.
To get paid while taking care of a loved one, explore government-funded programs like Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling, which can provide financial assistance to family caregivers in certain situations. Some states have paid family leave (PFL) laws, allowing eligible employees to take time off work with partial pay to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
Amie Clark, BSW
Aging Advocate and Senior Care Expert
Amie has worked with older adults and their families for the past twenty-plus years of her career. Her senior care knowledge is based on her experience as a social worker, family caregiver, and senior care consultant. Learn more about Amie here.