Being a caregiver for family members or others is a huge responsibility. It is much more than a full-time job. Unless the caregiver duties are shared with another reliable individual, this can be more than a 24/7 responsibility.
Caregivers of aging parents, children with special needs, and those with chronic debilitating illnesses require a great deal of physical as well as emotional stamina to handle the many needs of their loved ones.
For caregivers who are also working full- or part-time, this can be even more challenging. The caregiver has to be efficient and organized to focus on their job responsibilities while, at the same time, they need to be available for that “unexpected” call or emergency that can happen when caring for others.
My sister, Bunny, was the primary caregiver for our mom for over ten years. I saw how she had to juggle the responsibilities of full-time employment, parenting, and full-time caregiving for our mother, who lived with her.
A number of years ago, my sister had to have knee replacement surgery, so I stepped in to take care of her and my mother full-time while she recuperated. I was able to see first-hand the tremendous amount of work my sister had been doing for years. It was a humbling experience to be sure.
Several years later, when another family member was diagnosed with cancer, I became his caregiver. This involved taking him to medical appointments, driving to and from surgical procedures, and overseeing medications. I also went to each weekly chemotherapy treatment, which continued for many months. Again, it was a real eye-opener to be in the role of caregiver for another adult.
Five Strategies for Caregivers
Here are five strategies you may find useful if you are a working caregiver:
- Take time to develop a plan. How much time will you need? Is this a short-term situation or for a longer duration? Check into the Family and Medical Leave program, which provides for time off to take care of a family member, so you don’t have to worry about job loss during that time.
- Research the available options to get assistance and utilize the HR department at your job, as well as national programs and agencies that provide information and resources on local resources in your area such as the Area Agency on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Center, Family Caregiver Alliance, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Create a daily schedule that includes taking time out for self-care during the day, if at all possible. Walk outside, stretch or exercise for ten minutes, take a warm bath or shower, watch the sunset, listen to music, enjoy a warm cup of coffee or tea. This is crucial when you are spending so much of your time caring for someone else.
- Check out available resources to streamline your “to do” lists. Utilize apps such as Instacart, Amazon, and local store delivery options to cut down on unnecessary trips. Hire out tasks you or your loved one might have done in the past such as mowing the lawn, minor home repairs, or personal daily money matters like paying bills and health insurance record keeping. Take a break from all non-essential activities, such as time-consuming volunteering. You can let them know that your priorities have shifted, and you will return when you can.
- Remember to take things one day at a time; know that you are not alone and are truly a blessing to your family, even if they are unable to show their appreciation. Ask for support before you burn out! It’s essential that you take care of your emotional, physical, and social needs so that you can bring your best self to your role as caregiver.
AARP: Caregiving While Working
AARP: In-Home Care: Helping Loved Ones Age in Place
Mayo Clinic: Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself
Healthline: How to Care for Yourself When You Have Caregiver Burnout
Barbara Boustead, LCSW DMM of Mary’s Daughter LLC provides daily money management services from Madison, WI. Barbara is an AADMM board member. Connect with Barbara on LinkedIn.