Balancing Act: Ways to Care for Yourself and Your Senior Loved One

By Stacy Lee, 12:02 pm on
A daughter with her arm around her older mother at home in Burlington, VT

If you’re the primary caregiver for an aging relative or friend, chances are your life is a balancing act. On one hand, there are your responsibilities as a caregiver: scheduling doctor’s appointments, providing transportation, preparing meals, maintaining the household, managing bills, and perhaps daily personal care like bathing, grooming, and dressing. On the other hand, you have your individual responsibilities: a full-time job, family obligations, self-care such as exercise, nutrition, and relaxation. With so much depending on you, caregiving can quickly become overwhelming.

The balancing act you feel between caregiving and your career is not uncommon. In fact, as many as 6 in 10 family caregivers over the age of 50 work a part-time or full-time job. This means that there are millions of people who are facing similar challenges, joys, struggles, and successes as you. How do all these family caregivers make it work? Check out these 4 ways to care for yourself, your senior loved one, and your career (without dropping the ball!)

  1. Express Concerns to Your Employer

Find the right person, whether it is the Human Resources Department, scheduling manager, or your direct supervisor, and tell them about your current situation. Depending on your job and the amount of support you feel, it may be appropriate to tell them about the changes in your personal life and how this impacts your job. Let them know that you value your job and in no way want to compromise your position but are interested in any accommodations that can be made.

Some employers may be able to offer flexible hours, allowing you to start your day later to perform caregiver duties before work. Talk about alternative working arrangements, such as working from home or swapping shifts with another employee. Schedule managers may be more willing to accommodate your requested time off or shift changes if they understand that it is needed so that you can care for a loved one.

Ask your employer about paid and unpaid leave options, benefits, referrals, legal assistance, or insurance counseling. With the millions of Americans who have careers and are caregivers, it is likely your employer can help you find the support you need to be successful in both.

  1. Organize Your Schedule

Being a caregiver and having a career is a lot like having two full-time jobs. Organizing your schedule is the best way to excel at both. Create a calendar to track doctor’s appointments, work meetings, family events, and other activities. Try your best to separate work from caregiving by completing caregiver responsibilities during personal hours.

Creating a grocery shopping and meal preparation plan for your loved one is an easy way to save time. Dedicating a few hours on one day to prep, cook, and store all the meals for one week will make mealtime easier during the week. If your loved one has easy access to food while you’re away, there is one less thing for you to worry about.

  1. Build a Personal Support Network

Having a schedule and making plans is great until an emergency occurs. If something happens unexpectedly, you may need to leave work in a hurry. Before something like this occurs, find a coworker or two who can cover for you if needed. This is a situation when having disclosed your personal needs to your employer can be of value. While needing to leave unexpectedly isn’t ideal, your employer may be more understanding if they are aware of your caregiving responsibilities.

If leaving work is simply not an option, having a support system of other family caregivers or even professionals is essential. Having a friend or neighbor who is nearby and can fill in until you arrive not only ensures your loved one is cared for but gives you both added peace of mind.

With the right kind of support and planning, navigating through an emergency or other unexpected events will be more manageable.

  1. Make Caring for Yourself a Priority

You can only provide the best care for a loved one if you first take care of yourself. Being stressed from work, tired from the demanding caregiving schedule, or simply overwhelmed by your responsibilities doesn’t do anyone any good. Make self-care a priority by adding it to your schedule. Whether it is 15 minutes of reading each night or an afternoon spent exercising, taking time to take care of yourself is essential.

Many caregivers experience burnout and become to resent their responsibilities. As a result, the quality of life for both caregivers and those they care for suffer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many support groups and resources for caregivers to express their feelings and share experiences. Connecting with friends or other caregivers can be an excellent source of comfort.

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