Managing care for your loved ones may seem like an isolating experience, especially if you are juggling your career and caretaking responsibilities. Here are a few quick tips designed to support a career while caring for our loved ones.
The Tension for Many Families
According to a recent AARP study, an estimated 42% of working Americans have provided care for an aging adult in the last five years, many spending as much as 20 hours a week in this unpaid role. And while we naturally want to jump in and care for our loved ones, there is an often unspoken fear that it can jeopardize our career. These tensions are common and valid, so it makes sense to learn your options.
Maximizing Our Benefits
Although this can be a personal matter to each person, consider having a conversation with your employer. Depending on the industry, you may need to advocate for flex time schedules or remote work options for a season as you care for a loved one.
Legally you may have resources through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Many companies under this act will grant 12 weeks away from your job without the risk of losing it or position. Be sure to review the employee handbook as well, as each company usually has differing benefits for caregivers already outlined.
Your role as a caretaker is legally protected the same as any other familial medical role, and if your company is large enough to qualify for FMLA, they will have policies and procedures that align.
Managing Your Resources
There are both private and public resources available to you in many municipal areas as you juggle care and career. First, explore what free options we have at your disposal through local community networks.
Every major government city or municipality will have its own department centered around healthy aging and care. Those departments will often point to a larger network platform of resources where you can search for assistance in various topics and locations.
Some of these resources will be public and therefore free to seniors (like many transportation services) and their caregivers, and some will be private and thus have an associated cost. We recommend you do your own cost-benefit financial analysis for those paid services—even if a service has a fee, it could be less than money lost if you need to take the day off of work.
Do not fear running the numbers and assessing when it might be in your financial best interest to use private services for some tasks. Focus first on the tasks that cost time but have less impact on a loved one if outside help is hired (ex. grocery delivery services to your mother’s home that can be managed from your office.
Leveraging Our Skills
There can be a distorted reality that our commitment to our caretaker role somehow “takes away” from our chosen employment or position. This simply is not true. The skills we have gained becoming a support person for our loved one has only made us stronger employees anywhere, so learn and leverage these new skills.
Highlight that you are now an amazing multi-tasker, that you have learned how not to take no for a first answer, that you know how to make the most happen in the shortest amount of time. Instead of viewing this season in our lives as a “pause” on our career pursuits, you can consider it as additional experience and skills we are offering an employer.
No matter how much you care for your loved one, the feeling of guilt is common. The burden of guilt will only make your job that much harder. Let’s unpack some sources of caregiver guilt and ways to overcome them.