The many responsibilities of caring for someone often leads to job conflicts. According to the AARP, most of the American caregivers helping their parents, older relatives or friends are working full or part time.
Work is a financial necessity and a major source of personal satisfaction. But for many, the twin responsibilities of caregiving and working too often conflict. People eager to succeed in both can be caught in the middle.
The following tips provide an overview of the caregiving/working issue for employees and employers and offers ideas and resources that can help you manage your responsibilities efficiently and balance your roles more effectively.
Coping with Double Demands
- Each working caregiver's job is different. Even within the same company, different managers may be more or less supportive of your situation. If you're uncomfortable raising this issue with your supervisor, look in the personnel manual or other human resources publication to learn about your company's policy on caregivers. Does it offer benefits or services that could help with your situation?
- Ask your employer if there is an employee assistance program.
- Ask your human resources or personnel department to give you information about the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Have a copy sent to your supervisor as well, if appropriate. This law entitles eligible workers a maximum of 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave for family caregiving without loss of job security or health benefits. There are a variety of restrictions, however, such as company size and the amount of time the worker has been employed.
- Take advantage of flex-time policies. Consider asking for a flexible schedule if a formal policy is not in place.
- Offer to work a less desirable shift or be willing to make up time taken for caregiving by working days or shifts when most people want to be off. This flexibility on your part shows your employer that you are committed to the company and your job.
- Consider job sharing or working part time if possible.
- Avoid mixing work with caregiving. If you need to make phone calls or search the Internet for information related to your loved one's needs, do it on a lunch break.
- Manage your time well. When you must take time off for caregiving, set priorities and accomplish the most important things first. Delegate responsibilities when you can. Pace yourself; don't do so much in one area that you can't be effective in another.
- Get all the support you can from family members, friends and community resources.
- Take care of your own needs. Pay attention to your health; get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Having fun is also important. Take a break when the pressure gets too great. Talk with someone about your feelings and needs. This could be a professional counselor, a member of the clergy or an employee assistance counselor.
- Talk with your work supervisor about your caregiving issues. It's better to let your employer know the reasons for your late arrivals or seeming preoccupation instead of risking him or her drawing the wrong conclusions.
- Be sure to thank those at work for the consideration and assistance you receive. Perhaps you can agree to take on an extra assignment or special project when you do have time or help a colleague who may have heavy family or other responsibilities.
Above reprinted with permission from AARP.
Know Your Rights
Under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent, but not in-laws) with a serious health condition. The law permits you to use — or your employer to require you to use — accrued paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave, for some or all of the FMLA leave period. You may also be eligible for other family and medical leave through your employer's benefits package or labor contract.