Juggling Work and Caregiving

Advice For Caregivers

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With the right support and time for rest, you can juggle work and caregiving duties successfully.

If you are a member of the “sandwich generation”, adults who are simultaneously raising kids as well as caring for their aging parents, you can feel like you are the only one who is dealing with the challenges that come with a new caregiving role. However, you aren’t the only one learning to juggle work and caregiving obligations. In fact, there are more than 34 million Americans who are providing some type of unpaid care to a loved one while still attempting to meet professional goals, family responsibilities, and their own personal health.

More About the Sandwich Generation

The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that family caregivers, sometimes called informal caregivers, provide more than $470 billion worth of care and services each year. Those services and care looks different from family to family. However, if you are providing any of these types of assistance while still caring for children of any age, you are among the “sandwich generation” who spends much or their time:

  • Coordinating transportation for your loved one
  • Helping to manage medications in some way
  • Coordinating physician appointments
  • Helping with meal preparation in any way
  • Assisting with finance management, including paying bills
  • Stopping by regularly to check-in
  • Managing household tasks, including housekeeping, whether on your own or by hiring assistance
  • Helping with personal care tasks

Tips for Juggling Work and Caregiving

It can be overwhelming as a family caregiver. However, there are some ways to make the responsibility more manageable. If you are able to find ways to decrease your stress levels and increase your self-care, you have a better chance of avoiding caregiver burnout, a phenomenon that can cause serious health complications ranging from decreased immune response to increased mental health challenges.

Get your siblings involved

Family caregiving duties tend to always fall on one adult child, typically the oldest daughter who lives nearby. However, if you find yourself in that main caregiving role, you don’t have to bear every responsibility on your own. Get your siblings involved by asking them for help with specific projects or tasks. For example, instead of just saying “I need help”, try saying, “I need someone to take mom to the podiatrist on Tuesday at 10am.” 

Talk to your workplace

While you don’t have to share your personal life with everyone at work, it can be helpful if your immediate supervisor or Human Resources designee knows about your caregiving role. This way, you can have that extra support if you need to take off a few hours early to get Mom to the doctor or if you have to lead a video call from your Dad’s hospital room. Your workplace support system can also offer you more information about Family Medical Leave and other resources that can be helpful.

Automate as much as possible

If you are able to automate caregiving or work tasks, take the time to do that. For example, can you automate your dad’s prescription delivery or put your mom’s bills on automatic pay? If so, that can take a few items of your regular to-do list. You might be able to find ways to automate work tasks as well so you can free up a few moments throughout your week to create margin.

Schedule rest

Caregiving is difficult, as is meeting your professional responsibilities. Unfortunately, if you do not plan in time to rest, you will end up feeling miserable. Try scheduling rest into your monthly calendar so that you are more likely to stick with it. You can use the time to take a nap, read a book, take a yoga class, or go to dinner with friends.

Using technology and familiar devices can make organizing care a bit easier.

Give yourself peace of mind

If you are worried about your loved one at home alone, you can find ways to give yourself peace of mind that they are okay. Try a medical alert system so they can get help in case of an emergency, or find an app or device that can keep you in the loop with their daily activities or warn you of potential emergencies. You can even use devices you already have around the house to increase your communication with your loved one.

Talk to your physician

Family caregivers already are in regular contact with their loved one’s physician but most are not in contact with their own. During your next check-up, be sure you talk to your doctor about your family caregiver role. Your physician might ask you follow up questions about your physical or emotional health as well as be able to refer you to local resources that can support you and your loved one.

Consider a therapist

Finally, family caregivers can find great success working with a therapist or counselor on a regular basis. If you are the primary caregiver for your loved one, be sure you consider scheduling a regular appointment with a therapist with experience working with family caregiver situations. Your mental health is important and should be at the top of your to-do list.

Remember, you must find a way to care for yourself just as much as you are caring for those around you. Without the right support in place, you can quickly find yourself feeling depressed, anxious, and ill. Take care of yourself!