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Family caregivers are all around us, but they are often hidden. At least 44 million people are unpaid caregivers in the US.
Three quarters of these family caregivers have jobs but struggle to balance work and caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers help family members with bathing, dressing, medications, doctors’ appointments and more.
Being a dedicated employee and a supporting caregiver is a double responsibility. Some suffer from depression, anxiety and not being able to enjoy life. Bearing this double responsibility can decrease your employee’s productivity by 18.5%. Chances are higher that your employee will feel it is necessary to quit.
Often, out of necessity to care for a loved one, your employee will miss work. This results in lost work hours valued at $25.2 billion.
This situation will not resolve itself. Meanwhile, the population of seniors who need care continues to grow.
Corporations can learn more about the reality of caregiving. Employers can help their employees achieve balance between work and caregiving. Taking care of the caregivers is good for companies!
Employer support helps employees stay focused and productive. The employee can fulfill their responsibilities on the job and at home.
1. Educate and Train Supervisors and Managers
Employers can educate and train supervisors and managers on how caregiving impacts employees. 56% of caregivers say their supervisor does not know about their responsibilities at home. That is 22 million employees who are struggling to balance work and caregiving, and their boss doesn’t know.
2. Flexible Schedules
The key to helping these employees is workplace flexibility. Doctors appointments, sickness and falls don’t stick to “business hours.”
Allow employees to use flex-time, reduce hours, or work from home. Employees can meet company deadlines and responsibilities on a flexible schedule.
3. Referrals to Community Resources
Employers can help employees by providing referrals to community professionals, such as:
Employers can help employees find and giving the employee the flexibility they need to access these resources.
Balancing work and caregiving is a challenge that does not go away. Today, you may feel you have a handle on this balance. Tomorrow, you may feel overwhelmed again.
1. Talk About Your Home Responsibilities
Talk to the people around you about your responsibilities at home, especially your employer. You can help others support you by telling them what you need. To you, the needs may be obvious, but others may not be aware of your stress and needs.
2. Consider Taking Paid Leave
Your employer may offer paid leave to care for dependents or family members. Familiarize yourself with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. 4
3. Make Time for Self Care
Even if you must start with 5 minutes a day, make time for self-care. Yes, this is easier said than done! But if you aren’t healthy than you can’t do your job or take care of your loved one.
4. Use Your Workplace Skills at Home
Use your organization skills in both the workplace and at home. Create a calendar for your workplace responsibilities and deadlines. But also have a family calendar to keep track of appointments.
5. Make an Emergency Plan
Talk with your co-workers and employer about what you will do if you need to leave work for an emergency. Then find somebody who is close to home, a friend or neighbor who can help until you can get home.
6. Use Your Network of Support
Ask friends and family members to lend a hand and help with the caregiving tasks. Ask human resources about “Employee Assistance Programs.” Speak with a geriatric care manager about services that are available in your town or county. They may recommend respite care, in-home care, support groups and even “social” caregiver events.
Your dual role at work and at home will be a heavy burden but you can find support.
Demanding circumstances cause mental or emotional strain or tension. This is the definition of stress.
That’s also the definition of a day in the life of an employee caregiver!
You can’t prevent all stress. You can take steps early on before the stress reaches a breaking point. Here are some tips:
Support Your Body with Food and Movement
Make sure that you are providing fuel for your own tank. Try to eat as many healthy meals as you can. Take time for 20-30 minutes of physical activity in your day. If you don’t have time for this all at once, try to add 5-minute exercise breaks into your day. On your lunch hour take a brisk walk around the building. When you get home, put on some music while you make supper and boogey a little to the tunes.
Know That Your Feelings are Normal
Take time to understand and express your feelings. Caregivers are often crushed by the wide range of emotions. From love and empathy to frustration and anger at any given time. Worry, anxiety, guilt and isolation are also common emotions.
Get Emotional Support
Connect with others who can understand the feelings you are experiencing. You can even connect online in caregiver groups and forums. There, you can exchange ideas and get support at all hours of the day.
Caregiving is both rewarding and challenging. Many caregivers will find themselves unprepared for this role.
Employers can help by learning about the caregiver’s responsibilities and providing support. Employers can continue to receive valuable contributions from their employee, increase productivity and reduce turnover. By reducing caregiver stress, employers improve the lives of three parties — employer, employee and their loved family member.