Can you imagine trying to meet your work commitments while fulfilling your caregiving responsibilities? Maybe you already are. If so, you’re definitely not alone.
60% of caregivers over age 15 are employed. About 4 in 10 employed caregivers report arriving to work late, leaving early, or taking time off during the day to care for a family member or friend.
Recently, Barb MacLean, Executive Director for Family Caregivers of British Columbia, spoke with CBC Radio’s Gloria Macarenko about this very issue.
“The first thing we say is take a breath — please don’t quit your job,” said Barb MacLean. “Just find out as much as you possibly can about what’s available before you act.”
Listen to the BC Almanac interview & read the article.
In the last month, I’ve spoken with 8 family caregivers, all of whom are working and caring for at least one person.
One of the family caregivers painted her picture of being a working caregiver: “I’ve got two kids under the age of 6 years, I have a very demanding job, a husband whom I want to be more connected with and I’m caring for my mother who lives in another region of BC. And now, I’m having to hire a live-in caregiver and be her case manager from afar. Don’t get me wrong, I want to help her. I love her. But I’m so exhausted and the sheer amount of responsibility and time to provide care and support is overwhelming.”
If only balancing work and eldercare were as simple as a basic math equation!
Maybe it is…
Assessing work situation + assessing how eldercare activities affect your work = identifying a plan to achieve balance
OK, OK, it’s a stretch but a good place to start.
Let’s assume that it is as easy as a math equation. Assessing your work situation reflects the level of impact eldercare is having on your work, your job responsibilities and how much flexibility you have in your workplace and the level of trust with those you work with.
The second part of the equation is to better understand your caregiving role in relation to your work life. How does this differ from your caregiving role in general you ask?
Let’s look at a very simple example (for demonstration purposes).
Let’s say one of your roles as a caregiver is to drop in at Mom’s each morning to check in with her and to help her get going. You might ask yourself, “How often and how does this activity affect my work?”
Your answer might be, “Daily. I’ve had to call in and let my colleagues know I’ll be 30 minutes late three times this week.”
Take a few minutes and create a table of three columns and five or six rows. Leave enough space to write down examples.
|Caregiving Role/Task||Amount of time this affects work||Action Plan|
|e.g.: Getting Mom ready in the morning||90 minutes/week||Talk to my employer about adjusting schedule permanently.|
The first column will be for your caregiving role or task that you do to help the person who is ill or disable. The second column is reserved for how often you need to do this activity and how often does it affect your work.
Your last column is reserved for ideas on how to deal with it. In the example above, you may put down ideas like rearranging my work schedule, having Mom assessed by a government funded or private home support agency, having a good friend (who is willing and able) help once a week, set up an old fashion curtain check, etc.
Once completed, you should be left with a work situation assessment and defined caregiving activities that impact your work situation as well as some ideas to better manage your competing roles as caregiver and employee.
See? Just as easy as that math equation alluded to (if we were face-to-face, we’d both burst out laughing and comment on just how “easy” that was!)
If you haven’t had the conversation with your employer or colleagues about your caregiving situation, now is the time to do it. Letting your manager and your close co-workers know what is going on allows them the opportunity to provide support.
If, based on your assessment you are not comfortable bringing up the subject with your supervisor, consider contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Human Resources staff at your workplace.
Many businesses have family-friendly options that can help balance the demands of family caregiving and work. Research shows that often employees and employers are simply not aware of what help is available. Employer and union collective agreements have several family-friendly work provisions that may apply to your situation.
Want to learn more?
- Balancing Work and Caregiving? Check out some handy tips, compassionate care benefits and a pre-recorded webinar
- Are you an employer? Go to our Toolkit for Employers: Resources for Supporting Family Caregivers in the Workplace to learn more about ways to support working caregivers.
- The Vanier Institute of the Institute captures the bigger picture of family caregiving in Canada with their article, “Modern Caregiving in Canada”.
- Check out Employer Panel for Caregivers. (2015). When work and caregiving collide: How employers can support their employees who are caregivers.
- If you missed our previous blog on balancing work and care, check it out here.