Is it getting harder to juggle your caregiving responsibilities and work? Have you been late for work? Have you been leaving work early? Do you use your coffee break to make phone calls and schedule appointments for the person(s) in your care? Are you using your lunch break to complete caregiving tasks? Have you been literally ‘grabbing’ moments and feeling the pressure and stress of that? It may be time to explore your options, both in your workplace and outside your workplace.
First of all, think about what would make the reality of this juggling act between work and caregiving more manageable? What would make it somewhat less stressful or enable you to more effectively manage the stress of this reality? Is your current situation likely to continue or are the caregiving responsibilities and needs going to increase over time? In this case, you may want to think about immediate needs, short-term needs, and long-term needs. You may want to organize your thinking into different categories: workplace, caregiving tasks and activities, and self-management/self-care. What changes are possible in each of these categories?
In terms of the workplace, is it possible to modify your schedule? There may be options available to you so that you can take the time to focus on your caregiving situation. Perhaps flexible working hours would allow you to start and finish work at a time that would provide more opportunity for caregiving tasks. Does your employer offer “compassionate care days?” Can you take a paid leave? An unpaid leave? Is reducing the amount of hours you work an option for you? For your team? For your employer? You may want to approach human resources and/or your union, if you are in a unionized workplace. Is there a health and wellness committee? What options are available to you in your workplace?
Is it possible to speak to your supervisor or manager about the complexity of your caregiving situation? If you feel comfortable doing so without risking your employment status, there may be some creative solutions (either temporary or long-term) that may make it easier for you to fulfill all of your responsibilities. If it is possible to have this conversation, be prepared to speak about your short-term and long-term needs (as you currently understand what they are and what they will be).
In terms of your caregiving tasks and activities, are there ways to reduce your time commitment by having others share in the responsibilities? This could be other family members, neighbours, community services, and/or paid services. Any task or responsibility that is off your plate can only help you! There may be some things that only you can do or that you really want to do. Can you siphon off any other tasks to others? Have you discussed caregiving with the person(s) you are caring for? What can they continue to do on their own? Where do they most need assistance? What are their ideas? Do their standards need to change? Do your standards need to change given all that is on your plate? It is ideal to discuss these matters together and work out a plan, again, both a short-term and long-term plan.
Finally, there is self-management. How well do you manage stress? How well do you attend to your own health and wellbeing? Do you need to make any changes in this regard? Often, changing how we respond to a situation is the only thing we truly have control over. Caregivers often leave themselves off the agenda, so to speak, and this is not in anyone’s interests.
To sum up, there are 3 facets of your life to look at for possible changes or adaptations: work, the actual caregiving tasks and activities, and self-management/self-care. It is unlikely that there is one magic answer that will take care of the stress and pressure attached to being a caregiver and working. It is more likely going to require looking at what changes and adaptations can be made in all three areas.