Challenges of being a caregiver: Managing work-life balance

Challenges of being a caregiver: Managing work-life balance

Does caregiving impact your job performance?

Jane wakes up at 6:30 in the morning to get ready for work. She packs the kids’ lunches and does one last check to make sure that their homework is in their bags. She wakes up her mom to make sure she eats some breakfast before Jane leaves the house for the day. Jane drops the kids off at school and then heads to work. Along the way, she takes two calls from her mom, who was confused if she should take the red pill or the blue, even though Jane had already sorted them out in her mom’s pill organizer before she left the house this morning.  

Caregiving can make a serious impact on your work-life balance.

By the time Jane makes it to the office, she’s already exhausted and it’s only nine o’clock. She wonders how she’s going to make it through a full day of meetings, calls to make, reports to read, and e-mails to respond to. On top of all that, Jane somehow has to find the time to call her mom’s doctor to book a check-up. Later on that day, Jane’s boss sends her an e-mail asking for the progress report that she had given Jane a week to complete… a report which Jane hasn’t even started because it completely slipped her mind.

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Does Jane’s situation sound familiar to you?

As caregiving duties increase, caregivers are challenged to make room in other aspects of their lives – at home, at work, in their communities – and they inevitably end up dropping a few balls along the way.

Caregiving can make a serious impact on your work-life balance even if you think you’ve got things well under control.

Below are some common challenges of a caregiver that may affect work performance.

Difficulty asking for help when it is needed

Employees who have to balance their caregiving roles with their work and personal lives tend not to ask for help because they don’t know what questions to ask, feel guilty about not being able to do it all themselves, or don’t want to bother anyone else with their needs. They become closed off and isolated from their family, friends, and coworkers because they don’t expect anyone else to understand what they’re going through.

Overwhelming number of emotions such as guilt

Caregivers often have to deal with overwhelming emotions that can impact every decision they make both at home and at work. They can feel guilty about having to leave the person they’re taking care of alone so they can go to work. On the other hand, this could lead to anger and resentment, especially if they lack a support network of family and friends who can take over if they have to meet other obligations in their lives outside of caregiving. Grief, worry, frustration, and anxiety are also common emotions that caregivers face on a daily basis.

Setting healthy limits and boundaries

Another challenge that caregivers face is setting limits and boundaries with the care recipient, their family members, coworkers, employers, or even health-care providers. They keep stretching their limits because they often have difficulty saying no to another request. This is especially the case at work where they don’t want their manager or colleagues to think they aren’t pulling their weight. Inevitably, these caregivers will become overwhelmed by the additional demands and exhaustion will take over, if it hasn’t already.

Risk of caregiver burnout and stress-related illnesses

On top of exhaustion, 45 per cent of caregivers who have been providing care for three or more years are prone to stress-related illnesses such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Frequent Colds and Flu
  • Body Pain
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Weight Loss or Gain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue

Caregivers who neglect to see to their own health in order to take care of someone else may wind up having to take more days off from work in order to recover from such illnesses.

In order to avoid developing health problems, caregivers should seek out sources of respite to give them time away from their caregiving duties – even for just a few hours – in order to replenish their energy. Ask a neighbour or friend to stay with the person you’re taking care of while you go out to run errands, take a nap, or do something that you find enjoyable. There may be resources available in your community, such as an adult day program, that the person you’re caring for may attend while you’re at work.

Financial challenges and obligations

There are many financial concerns related to caregiving, such as reduced income, additional costs for care, adaptations to the home, and handling the care recipient’s finances. Visit the Service Canada website to find out what benefits are available to family caregivers, and the Public Health Agency of Canada website to help you navigate the health care system.

Changes and strain in relationships

Decision-making, managing finances and role reversals can strain relationships between spouses, children and siblings. They are issues that can carry over into the workplace and may affect performance and morale. Another factor that can affect someone’s performance is the ongoing loss of the person they’re caring for. Caregivers need to adjust to each change in the health of the person they’re caring for, which can sometimes trigger feelings of loss around their privacy, independence, stability, future plans, financial security, social life, relationships, and even employment.

Finding caregiver support in your workplace

The good news is that these days, most employers see the value in having supports in place for their employees who are also family caregivers. After all, lost workforce productivity due to caregiving commitments amounts to $1.3 billion so creating a caregiver-friendly workplace is a mutually beneficial and ideal solution.

Here are some ideas that you may want to consider:

  • Ask your employer for flexibility in your schedule so that you can better manage your work and home responsibilities. Remember to allow time for respite.  
  • Some companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that provide free and confidential counselling services to their staff. Speak to someone in your Human Resources department for information on accessing these services.
  • Your HR department could also inform you of a number of other resources:
    • Employee discount programs for travel, health and wellness, entertainment, etc.
    • Training and resources around providing family caregiving and reducing caregiver burnout.
    • Financial assistance available through Employment Insurance
    • Policies regarding providing eldercare, gradual return-to-work, bereavement and funeral leave, and short- or long-term leaves of absence
  • Some organizations encourage their employees to consider working from home in order to create more space in the office. Consider working from home to reduce your travel expenses, save you time by eliminating your daily commute, and give you some flexibility in your schedule.

Are you a caregiver for a family member and also in the workforce?

Share the challenges you face as a caregiver in the workforce and how you’ve learned to find a work life balance in the comments section below.

 

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