It’s crunch time at work and your boss asks you to stay late to meet a deadline. You’ve always been able to push through, work hard and deliver results. But things have changed. Your 85-year-old mother has Alzheimer’s and has reached a stage where she can’t live alone. She’s moved in and needs help with meals, medication, self-care and appointments. What do you do? How do you balance the competing demands of work and caregiving?
Being successful in your career while at the same time managing a loved one’s care can leave you feeling constantly stretched and unable to give your all to both work and caregiving. This can be especially challenging if you have a family of your own. If you’re struggling to make it all fit together, these strategies may help you find a better balance, feel less overwhelmed and get the support that you need:
- Look Forward: A good first step is to take a look at your short- and long-term caregiving demands. If your loved one has a terminal, progressive disease, understand what this means and how the condition will likely progress. Think about what part of the day requires the most care, the next steps in your caregiving role and changes to living arrangements. Like any plan, things will change along the way, but you will get a better sense of the intensity of your caregiving role and how this may affect your job.
- Have the Conversation: Once you’ve done some reflection, schedule time to talk to your employer. Don’t wait for an emergency to let them know about the challenges you’re facing. The more aware your boss is of your situation, the more likely you’ll be able to find an arrangement that works for everyone. Openness will also make future conversations easier as work requirements or caregiving needs change.
- Explore Options: Your company may have policies that support caregivers or flexible work options and you may be eligible for Family Caregiver Benefits or Family Caregiver Leave. Look into whether you can work remotely, reduce your hours, job share or work outside of the traditional work day. These changes can make your day easier and still allow you to get the job done. If your employer is not willing to accommodate, you may need to consider other options.
- Reach Out: To help you strike a balance, you will need to find ways to share the care. Look to family members, neighbours and friends to help reduce your demands. Ask directly and be specific, so they aren’t left wondering how to help. Also consider home care and respite care services like VHA Home HealthCare that are available in your area. If you live in Ontario, your loved one may qualify for government-funded care through the Local Health Integration Network.
- Take Care of You: Caregivers are known to put everyone’s needs before their own. However, your physical and mental health are crucial to getting through the day, functioning at work and providing quality care. Try your best to eat well, get enough sleep, stay active, take breaks and find time to do the things you enjoy. Ask about whether your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program, connect with support groups and speak to a professional.
As a caregiver, you may not be a top achiever or team leader at work right now. You might have to shift gears, slow down and be more realistic about what you’re able to accomplish. By using some of these strategies, you can help manage expectations, balance your demands and make your caregiving journey a fulfilling one.