Are you taking care of your parent, spouse or an older relative while holding down a full-time or part-time job? Is it getting harder to juggle your work and family obligations in these tough economic times?
Although often “a labor of love,” caregiving for a dependent adult can be very demand- ing in terms of time and physical, emotional and financial resources. When you are under the threat of layoffs, have lost a job or seen your assets dwindle, you may find coping with caregiving particularly stressful. Too much stress can be toxic, so you may need to look for ways to take control and make necessary adjustments. Consider a change in approach — either by making changes in the caregiving situation or work situation or both.
Assess Your Situation
- Do I have the time I need to give the needed care without too much stress? Is caregiving impacting my work? Can I afford to cut back on work hours to provide the needed care?
- Can I find a person or people to help with caregiving or other home tasks?
- Does my company offer options to provide employees with caregiving solutions?
- What are the potential consequences of continuing with my present arrangements?
- If there are things I can’t change, what are the inner strengths I can use to cope with the stresses and challenges of my work/family situation?
Identify Resources in Your Family, Workplace, and Your Community
Many caregivers do not know where to look for help, cannot afford help or are reluctant to accept help. You may feel it is easier to do things yourself rather than to delegate, or you may fear that the person you care for may not accept a new caregiver or substitute. However, many caregivers find that accepting help prevents burnout and frees up time for all-important self-care.
Some places to look for affordable help:
- Family, friends and neighbors. Overstressed caregivers can benefit when they “share the care.” Think back to any offers of help you may have turned away and see if the people are still available. Sometimes relatives and friends can help with non-care tasks (such as grocery shopping or laundry or taking your car to be inspected, etc.) that will free you up to do your caring activities. One longer-term approach is to set up a care team — a group of people who agree to provide care on a voluntary and rotating schedule, making it likely that no one will have to shoulder more responsibility than they can handle.
- Workplace supports and other community agencies. To enhance employee productivity and satisfaction, some employers have policies that are caregiver-friendly (for example, flexible scheduling) and o er programs to assist caregiving employees, usually through human resources managers or departments. Most communities have services for caregivers available through councils on aging, volunteer agencies, senior centers or faith-based organizations. One resource available in every part of the United States is the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. Use this resource to find available options for temporary help (respite care), counseling, caregiver support groups or other free or low-cost pro- grams and services in your area. Some community agencies also o er adult day care or in- home services at prices that may be reasonable when compared to the physical and emotional costs of shouldering all the care.
Make an Action Plan for Caregiving and for Taking Care of Yourself
After you have assessed your situation and identified resources, make an action plan and follow through with it. As a caregiver, you already know to expect the unexpected, so be sure to include back-up arrangements as well.
Design your action plan so you include time to take care of yourself. Keep up with regular medical check-ups and recommended health screenings. Build in time for breaks and relaxation and activities you enjoy. Write down a reminder to look for the silver linings and moments of humor in everyday situations. This will provide you with a balanced perspective on the challenges and rewards of the work you do, while caring for others or on the job.
North Carolina programs and services for caregivers
Especially for employed family caregivers
Publication date: March 1, 2009
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