You are in a work meeting and your cell phone vibrates. You ignore it. Two minutes later, it vibrates again. You check the number and see it’s your mother calling. Between meetings you call her back and she tells you she needs to go to a doctor’s appointment that afternoon. You wish that she had told you earlier so that you could make arrangements, but you know that she’s struggling with short-term memory loss and you want to support her.
Your 25-year-old son has an acquired brain injury. He lives with you and your wife and is no longer able to work. His brain injury has affected his ability to walk and he is quick to anger. Even though he is able to do many things, he requires on-going support – financially and emotionally. He often calls you when you are work and if you don’t answer, he will continue calling until you answer his call.
Do any of these situations sound familiar?
Balancing caregiving and work situations vary tremendously and no single action plan works for everyone. Developing your own customized strategy can lighten your load and reduce stress.
It’s also important to think about caregiving as an important role in your life.
Performing well at work and being successful in your role as caregivers require similar elements — the right skills and information needed for your situation and being happy and healthy.
Caregivers need good and relevant information to make good and informed decisions — at work and outside of work. A key strategy in balancing your role as a working caregiver is developing a workable plan.
The first step is assessing your work situation:
The level of impact caregiving is having on your work?
Does your role as caregiver cause you to arrive late or leave work early more than once? Are you required to make phone calls related to caregiving while at work? Find yourself becoming tired or emotionally upset, resulting in feeling distracted at work? How would you rate the impact — none, some, high?
- Job responsibilities and tasks:
Being clear about your day-to-day responsibilities and what is expected of you is an important step in mapping out a caregiving plan.
- Flexibility in your workplace and level of trust with those you work with:
Can you work flexible hours? Do you have someone who can cover for you if you need to leave the office? Does your employer know about your caregiving situation? Are you comfortable talking to your direct superior or colleagues about your caregiving role and responsibilities?
What policies does your company have in place to support working caregivers? What degree of flexibility do you have in your work schedule — a lot, limited, none? What is your level of trust with an employer and colleagues — none, some, high?
Be honest with yourself. Don’t sugarcoat the situation. It won’t help you in the long run and may cause additional stress.
Finally, create a file and keep track of information about your assessment. Such documentation serves as a valuable reference when dealing with your employer, colleagues, doctors and others involved in the care of the person being cared for.
For more information and additional resources, hop on over to our Supportive Caregivers in the Workplace page here.
Author: Wendy Johnstone, M.A. Gerontology