Twenty-eight percent of Canadians are balancing unpaid family or friend caregiving with work. While the role of caregiving is rewarding, as you support the person you love and care for, the strains of caregiving can take its toll. Furthermore, 25% of caregivers have reported a change in their employment experience (since becoming caregivers) including:
- Turning down training opportunities
- Accepting a loss of income
- Health and sleep problems infringing on work productivity
- Emotional difficulties
- Having to quit their jobs altogether
Balancing caregiving and work varies between individuals; there is no single action plan that works for everyone, but one experience that tends to be commonly shared among caregivers is the benefit of finding strategies to manage that work/caregiving balance. With that said, here are five strategies to support you in lightening your caregiver load and reducing stress:
- Be honest and proactive: Describe the situation to your employer before it becomes a problem without sugar-coating the situation. Let them know you are committed to your job, and be honest with yourself.
- Recognize signs of stress: Listen to your body. Don’t wait until physical or emotional consequences of stress impact you negatively. It’s much easier to stay aware, and with this awareness you can identify ways to support yourself with stress. It is also useful to consider professional help if you feel overwhelmed (emotional support or professional support with caregiving)
- Learn what support is available:
- Can you work flexible hours?
- Do you have a colleague who can cover for you if you need to leave the office?
- Does your employer know about your caregiver situation?
- Are you comfortable talking to your direct superior or colleagues about what you are experiencing?
- Are there policies set in your company that support working caregivers?
- Document, Document, Document: Create a file and keep track of information about your caregiving experience. This documentation serves as a valuable reference when dealing with your employer, colleagues, doctors and others involved in your caregiving journey.
- Make time for yourself: The people we are caring for may call for a high demand of attention, support or tasks. Set boundaries and schedule regular times when you call or check-in. A useful practice is mindfulness and compartmentalize. When you are at work, stay present in work. When you are caring, be present with the person you care for. Equally important: when you are playing, be present in your play.