How to Balance Work and Caregiving

Three Parts:Taking Care of YourselfMaking Short Term ArrangementsPlanning for the Long-Term

Many people struggle with the demands of working a job and giving care to a sick or elderly relative. Caregiving can conflict with with work because you may need time off to take a sick or disabled relative to the doctor, rehab, or other appointments. Stress from working and caregiving can even make you sick, so it is important to strike a good balance between work and caregiving.

Part 1
Taking Care of Yourself

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    Learn about the risks. It might come as a surprise, but as a caregiver, you open yourself up to numerous health problems, so you need to be aware of the risks you face, and be on the look out for any new symptoms.[1] Caregivers experience above average rates of several conditions, including:
    • Addiction related problems.
    • High-blood pressure.
    • Depression.
    • Anxiety.
    • Obesity.
    • Cancer.
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    Prioritize self-care. Schedule regular times to do things that attend to your needs and no one else's. Since you as a caregiver are at risk for many serious health conditions, schedule regular times to exercise, visit your doctor, and take breaks.[2]
    • It's easy to put yourself last when there are so many other competing responsibilities, so go ahead and make a list of folks who can come to provide some relief from your care giving duties, including friends, family, and paid help.[3] Note times when each are available and tasks that they are comfortable performing, so you can maximize your self-care time.
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    Set boundaries. You need to let folks know what you will and won't do. This goes for work and for your dependent, since they both demand so much of your time.[4]
    • Tell your employer what times you are available and what times you aren't. Make it clear to them that if they call you when you aren't available, they won't get an answer.
    • Let your dependent (or your co-caretaker) know that in order to be the most effective caretaker that you can be, you need time to recuperate and you need time to work. One person can't be everything for everyone, and although there might be some adjustment, they will understand that sooner or later.
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    Communicate with your employer. The circumstances which accompany the assumption of care giving responsibilities can be tragic, as with end of life care, or joyous, as with the birth of a child. While you don't have to share every detail about your caregiving experience with your employers, it helps to let people know what's going on.[5]
    • Your employers are people too, and they have the same human sympathies that we all have. If they know what types of extenuating circumstances are happening with your dependent, they are more likely to be understanding if you come in on Mondays a little less rested than you used to be.

Part 2
Making Short Term Arrangements

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    Assess your responsibilities. Although this is one of the easiest steps to overlook, it can also be one of the most beneficial. Make a list of daily responsibilities, weekly responsibilities, and monthly or irregular responsibilities.[6]
    • Daily responsibilities include things like dressing, feeding, or cooking dinner for a loved one. You may even have to do some or all of the driving for your loved one.
    • Weekly responsibilities include grocery shopping, doing laundry, and paying bills.
    • Monthly responsibilities and irregular responsibilities include doctor’s visits, filling prescriptions, or physical therapy.
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    Determine what you can delegate. Even if you are the only regular caretaker for your dependent, other people can often help. Look to your siblings, your spouse, and neighbors for help with irregular tasks or regular task that require minimal effort.
    • For example, if you take care of a parent, a nearby sibling might be able to give rides, while a distant sibling could help manage other responsibilities, like scheduling doctor’s visits, filling prescriptions, or paying bills.
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    Decide how much money you can spend on outside services. With a booming elderly population, caregiving by loved ones and family members is becoming much more common. However, many in-home care assistants can be employed on a part time basis, so be sure to investigate those options locally.
    • Look for adult day care centers in your community, or senior centers that have day programs. These can be relatively affordable and can take a lot off your plate.
    • Don’t forget about neighbors. They can be an extremely helpful resource that costs little or nothing. Ask neighbors whether they would be willing to pick up prescriptions, call or visit to give reminders to take medications, or even just check in. They can help you not rely on outside services for many things. However, you should only make these arrangements with reliable people so that you can depend on them fully to follow through with the arrangement.
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    Review your workplace policies. Start with your employee handbook. Many employers offer benefits plans and services that go above and beyond what is legally required for them to offer. Take a diligent accounting of any type of benefit that might better help you to manage your caregiving and work responsibilities. These include:
    • Flex-time. Flex-time policies often allow employees to use sick leave to care for others, split shifts, Or work longer hours from home. Some companies even offer leave sharing, where employees can donate unused leave time to other employees [7]
    • Some employers offer “cafeteria style” employee benefits, which allow employees to select different benefits based on their individual needs.[8] For example, your employer may allow you to tack on supplemental dependent care coverage to reimburse costs for different types of health care..
    • An even larger share of employers offer Employee Assistance Programs, which help employees locate suitable care outlets within their own communities.
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    Make yourself aware of your legal rights. All public-sector employees and private-sector employees in the US who work for a company which employs 50 or more people within 75 miles of your worksite must offer Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. Each employee who works for a covered employer for at least 1250 hours in a 12 month period is eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for themselves or a dependent with a serious condition.[9][10]
    • Some states mandate that employers offer Paid Family Leave, or PFL, which is similar to the leave offered nationwide under the FMLA, except that it is paid rather than unpaid.[11] The specifics of each state’s PFL policy will be different, so be sure to research the laws in your jurisdiction.
    • The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, prohibits job discrimination based on the caregiving responsibilities that an employee may have. This is applicable in all 50 US states.[12]
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    Speak with your supervisor. Once you are aware of your employer-based benefits and legal rights, speak with your supervisor or HR manager about which policies are right for you, and which you intend to take advantage of.

Part 3
Planning for the Long-Term

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    Evaluate your dependent’s condition. In order to make a long-term plan, you need to do your best to anticipate what may come in the future. This means thinking dispassionately about the future progression of your dependent’s condition.
    • Ask yourself if the condition is likely to worsen, and to what degree it is likely to worsen. Do your own research to find out what the worst-case scenario for the progression of the condition is, and how likely it is that the worst-case scenario will come to pass, but also be sure to consult with your dependent's doctor.
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    Hope for the best, plan for the worst. As best you can, plan for the worst case scenario. Ask yourself how it will affect you, your family, and your relationship with your employer. Take into account:
    • What the financial impact of a worst-case scenario will be. Decide if that impact is a burden you can shoulder, and if not, what you can do to mitigate the financial burden. Try to develop contingency plans for worst, intermediate, and best-case scenarios.
    • Ask yourself how your employer is likely to respond to your worst-case scenario. Do the benefits at your current job cover you in the event that you will have to act on the worst possible outcome? If not, investigate how you can respond accordingly. Look for outside insurance policies that might cover long-term care. If that is financially out of reach, see what you can do to find an employer who can offer you the benefits package you need.[13]
    • Strained familial relationships. If you forecast that an intensive-care situation is likely or inevitable, make a plan for how you can help compensate for the lost time with your other family members. Your family needs to be your support, and not your antagonists. Set special time aside for your other family members to insure that those relationships stay strong. [14]
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    Look for long-term care options in your community. Once you have evaluated the likely course of your dependent’s condition and their treatment regimen, planned for the worst-case scenarios financially, filially, and with your employer, see what you can do to find long-term treatment options in your area. You can make a much stronger treatment plan when you have taken stock of outside resources.[15]
    • For example, you may have a preference that your dependent receive in-home care right now, and you may be able to afford it. However, if your long term forecast suggests that your dependent is likely to need much more intensive care in the future which you will not be able to afford, an adult-day care or a care at a local senior center might be the best way to save money now so you have it in the future.
    • Be on the lookout for resources like adult day centers, informal arrangements, Meals-on-Wheels, in-home care subsidized through Medicare and/or Medicaid, geriatric care managers, and free transportation programs. You can find a listing of these kinds of resources at the National Eldercare Locator, at and at the Caregiver’s Alliance, located at:[16][17]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Disability Issues | Aged Care