Balancing work and caregiving duties

Balancing work and caregiving duties

Caring for your parent or child without losing your job

What happens when you work full time and suddenly become a caregiver, having to deal with your spouse, child, or parent's medical issues and care?

It's very stressful when work and caregiving collide and you have to manage coordinating constant or complex care services.

In the same week, one woman's older parents both had trips to the hospital and needed home care after discharge. Her mom had emergency surgery and a colostomy, and her dad took a fall that required rehabilitation. This woman was already juggling work schedules with her husband to coordinate care for their son, who has autism.

It's very stressful when work and caregiving collide and you have to manage coordinating constant or complex care services.

Balancing work and caregiving may seem monumental if you are trying to do it alone, have an inflexible work schedule, or if taking time away means lost wages; the obstacles can pile up even faster.

An estimated 4-5 million Canadians are providing caregiving services for a family member - that's one out every five Canadians (source: Canadian Caregiver Coalition).

While caregiving can be very fulfilling, caregivers are also impacted by the costs -- which might include making changes to your job, or in some cases, leaving the workforce altogether. These costs have an estimated market value of between 24 and 31 billion dollars annually.

A National Study done in 2012 on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada, examined work-life experiences of 25,000 Canadians who were employed full time. The study found that stress levels for Canadians have risen while life satisfaction has steadily declined.

Today, nearly two-thirds of us are working in excess of 45 hours a week, which is about 50 per cent more than what it was two decades ago. There are also more employees balancing work and caregiving for elders, as well as childcare.

Managing the emotions of caregiving, like guilt, is very difficult - life becomes very different. You might feel guilt over not being able to bring your “A game” to every aspect of your life, or guilt about being away from the care recipient while you are at work.

There are no weekends or days off in caregiving. But if you do take a length of time off from your job, it can impact your own retirement.

Since we could all find ourselves in a similar situation of balancing caregiving and work, how can you provide caregiving services to those who need you and manage the needs of taking time off? Here are some suggestions that might help:

Reach out and take steps now.

It may be time to discuss financial planning with your bank or research the most appropriate financial products for your individual needs through an independent financial management company. This might include exploring options like high interest savings accounts, retirement savings plans, employee benefits, life insurance, and individual tax services).

TD Canada Trust has an online retirement calculator that can help you plan ahead. RBC also has an online financial calculator that is specific to caregivers who work.

Map out health service options to meet your needs.

You will likely need to combine home and community care services with support from other family members and friends.

Know your policies at work and discuss them with your employer.

Theres’s a quote from a Professor Duxbury on the results of a research study that found, “The use of alternative work arrangements such as flex-time has actually declined since 2001…while hours of work have increased.'' Find out what your options are with your employer.

Set clear expectations.

Caregiving and work can be overwhelming at times, so the more you can prepare and communicate at work the more it will help. Wondering how situations or a crisis will impact your job is an added stress you don't need. Discuss how and when to ask for time off if something happens (you need to take someone to an appointment or the hospital), how it's going to be managed, and who will do what.

Have a backup plan.

When caregiving and work collide, someone may have to step in and do your job with little notice; what do they need to know? Have ongoing communication with your colleagues.

Finally, if you need to continue balancing work and caregiving, try to adjust your perspective to see the value your family caregiving experience can bring to your job. For example, you will develop stronger problem-solving skills and become very good at thinking of creative solutions.

See also our earlier Elizz article on Caregiver Work Life Balance or visit our Elizz services page to learn more about the support services we provide to caregivers and the people in your care.




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