Written by Wendy Johnstone, Provincial Program Consultant and Gerontologist with Family Caregivers of BC and originally published in Inspired 55+ Lifestyle Magazine.
One in three caregivers are juggling work and care. The research shows most caregivers experience wonderful gains by giving back to the person they are caring for and enjoy strengthened family relations. However, the strains of managing a job or operating a business and being a caregiver can take its toll:
Caregivers report a change in employment including reducing their hours and responsibilities, taking a loss of income, a leave of absence from work, or simply having to quit their jobs altogether to be a caregiver. Almost 20 per cent of employed caregivers experience physical and emotional health challenges.
Managing caregiving and work situations vary tremendously and no single action plan works for everyone. Here are a few strategies to consider in making a plan and reducing stress.
Be honest and proactive. Describe the situation to your employer before it becomes an issue and let them know that you are committed to your job and want to find solutions that work for them and you.
Demonstrating a genuine obligation to provide care (versus personal choice) is important to include in your conversation. Be honest with yourself – and them – about the situation. Minimizing your caregiving responsibilities won’t help in the long run and will cause additional stress.
Learn about available support. Every workplace is different. It’s important to inform yourself about the benefits and support that might be available to you including human resources policies and benefits. Explore ideas that allow you to manage your caregiving role and work responsibilities including realistic alternatives and available caregiving options, like other family members, friends, health care and community supports.
Some of the questions you may want to ask: Can you work flexible hours? Is there someone who can cover for you if you need to leave the office or finish your day early? What policies does your company have in place to support working caregivers?
Document, Document, Document. Create a file and keep track of information about your situation, how it changes over time and all the interventions and programs being accessed or used. Such documentation serves as a valuable reference when dealing with your employer, colleagues, doctors, and others involved with the person you are caring for.
Recognize the signs of stress. Listen to your body and mind – don’t wait until the physical or emotional consequences of stress negatively impact you. Small steps and actions go a long way. Identify one way you can support yourself with stress (i.e., a 15-minute walk at lunch, five minutes of meditation, a support group once a month) or consider professional help if you feel overwhelmed.
We’ve got your back. Family Caregivers of BC’s Caregiver Support Line staff can support you, offer strategies, and help you make a plan for caregiving and yourself. And almost all of us are employed caregivers (or were in the past) so we “get it.” Reach out through our toll-free number at 1-877-520-3267. All our services are free.