How to Juggle Working and Caregiving

Busy Primary Caregiver

You’ve got a dozen messages in one hand, the phone in the other and a reminder for your elderly father’s doctor’s appointment on the desk in front of you. You’ve only got two hands, but you’re juggling your own needs with the demands of caring for your aging parent.  Being a primary caregiver and working another job can stretch you so thin, you may feel like you’re going to snap.

Over 30 million Americans are in that boat with you, struggling to meet the challenges of work responsibilities while also caring for an elderly parent or loved one. It’s no surprise that these caregivers usually wind up exhausted, both mentally, physically and emotionally. How can anyone handle so much at once?

Because so many American workers are finding themselves in this position, many employers are finding ways to work with them. Some companies have programs in place to assist caregivers, helping them find help in the community, respite care, and financial assistance. Other companies offer caregivers leave and work options that are more flexible and lenient.

To find out if your employer can work with your changing needs, start by telling your boss about your situation. Be direct and honest about your caregiving role and the difficulties you’re dealing with. Your boss will respect and appreciate your honesty, and be more willing to work with you when he knows what’s happening.

Be sure that you know your rights. Your company should be able to provide information about the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for illness or caring for family members who are ill, without losing their job or health benefits.

When you’re at work, do your very best to really be at work, and leave your caretaking chores at home. If you need to make phone calls related to your loved one’s needs, do that on your break, not during work hours.

Stay organized and use lists to keep your priorities in order. Make efficient use of your time both at work and at home. Get the important tasks done, and don’t beat yourself up if the lesser important items don’t get done.

If your company is able to offer you flexible work hours, or if you are able to work from home a few days a week, this can be a lifesaver. Ask your employer; you may be surprised by their willingness to work with you during this difficult time.

And when things get better for you, be sure to thank those who went out of their way to help you. Take on extra work when you can, and be willing to take up the slack for a co-worker who is going through a similar time. Communities start with the people you know. Don’t be afraid to reach and ask for help with you need to juggle the difficulties of work and caregiving.

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