Daughters and sons who are working and caring for their aging parents often find that their caregiving ‘seeps’ into their work life. Many use coffee breaks or lunch hours to make phone calls and schedule appointments or run errands for their mom and/or dad. And many say that they feel distracted at work, wondering how their parents are doing.
Obviously the greater your parents’ need for assistance, the greater the impact on you and your work. With aging parents, it will be difficult to predict with any certainty whether their current needs will stay the same or for how long and when their needs might increase.
It’s a good idea to be prepared and explore all your options now. There are 3 facets of your life to look at for possible changes or adaptations: your workplace, 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.
- Know your workplace options. There may be policies and benefits regarding flex time, compassionate care benefits, working at home, reducing work hours, paid leaves, unpaid leaves, early retirement. These could help you manage better the time and stress. You may want to approach human resources and/or your union, if you are in a unionized workplace and/or a health and wellness committee.
- 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 immediate, short-term and long-term needs (as you currently understand what they are and what they will be). As a general principle, supervisors and managers would prefer to be forewarned when possible rather than blindsided by sudden employee absences.
- Talk to supportive co-workers. Co-workers cannot be supportive and empathize if they don’t know about your caregiving situation. The stress (and sleep deprivation) that can come with being a new parent is recognized and easily talked about in the workplace. This isn’t the case for adults who are working and caring for aging parents. You can be a trailblazer in changing workplace culture!
Options outside the workplace
- Explore 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?
- Take responsibility for yourself and self care needs.
How well do you manage stress? How well do you attend to your own health and well being? 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.
What do you do to juggle workplace responsibilities with the support and care you provide to your parents?