How to Balance the Responsibilities of Work and Elder Care

You have a job that helps pay the bills, which you are thankful for and perhaps even enjoy; and then you have caregiving responsibilities at home, helping someone who is dear to your heart. Both have their individual set of demands and rewards, but finding ways to balance the two is sometimes difficult, even overwhelming on occasion. You’re not alone. According to statistics there are more than 20 million people in the U.S. who struggle to balance the responsibilities of caring for an elderly loved one and continuing to work for a paycheck.

For this reason, we’ve created a list of suggestions that just might help you find a healthy balance. Check this out:

Be Upfront with Your Employer

Many of us prefer to separate work life and home life for personal and privacy reasons, but if you’re caring for an elderly relative, the level of responsibility and amount of time required can change quickly. Caring for an aging parent can quickly disrupt a work schedule and result in lost hours and added stress. Juggling the multitude of professional and personal responsibilities can decrease productivity by as much as 18%, which can put your job at risk.

However, by choosing to have a direct conversation with your employer, it will provide insight to your boss and result in better understanding. When the two of you work together, you may gain access to resources you were unaware of and come up with a compromise that suits everyone.

Many employers will accommodate staff with flexible hours or allow them to telecommute from home. Prior to talking with your boss, come up with alternative suggestions to prove you are proactive about making it work. Here are some ideas:

  • Be open to exchanging shifts with a colleague.

  • Develop a plan of action in the event you need to miss work.

  • If you’re responsible for feeding your parents or driving them to appointments, do these things during times that are the least disruptive to your job. Many doctor’s offices extend hours to see patients during the early morning or late evening hours and on weekends.

Ask for and Accept Help

It isn’t easy to ask for help or accept it when it is offered. If siblings, relatives, or neighbors are willing and available to help, by all means let them. Once you allow someone else to assist you, you’ll realize the benefits involved. In addition to other family members and friends, you also have the option of hiring a professional to take on some of the responsibilities. Welcome the opportunity for help.

Recognize Your Limitations

Caregivers often feel responsible for taking care of everything, but this is virtually impossible and will quickly lead to burnout. The success of continuing to work and provide elder care is solely dependent on you taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally. By recognizing your limits, you’ll be able to balance your responsibilities without sacrificing your personal health.

To do this, start by evaluating yourself. Acknowledge your emotions and monitor energy levels to help you determine the frequency and time you need for a recharge. The next step is determining how others can assist you and communicate those needs to family members, friends, and even co-workers, if applicable. Do you need help with dinner or housecleaning? Would it be helpful for a sibling to take over the responsibility of driving mom or dad to their weekly doctor visit? Can your co-worker switch shifts with you next week or cover for you a few hours?

Finding a way to balance the responsibilities as caregiver and employee can pose challenges, but there are alternative solutions.