Working It Out at Your Workplace

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As a working caregiver, have you found that your personal and professional lives collide? If so, you are certainly not alone! Consider that many of us will work an average 40-hour work week. As a busy caregiver, you could easily add another 20 to 25 hours on top of that tending to an aging senior’s needs and little time remains. As a means to ease that burden, employers could better recognize these challenges and make caregiving respite much easier for their own working staff. Just one idea would be to welcome their staff’s elderly parents into the workplace to receive care and support while sons and daughters are on the job. With the ever-rising number of employees trying vainly to juggle their own career and caregiving responsibilities, this change might well be in order.

Such an approach would greatly alleviate matters for working caregivers. Working caregivers have few options available to them and often must take time off from their jobs or add hours to a work day with tending to caregiving. Frequently, this doesn’t work out well and has negative effects. As a former working co-caregiver, I routinely felt torn between my employment and caregiving responsibilities and often felt more distracted, worried, and stressed when my parents and I were apart (meaning that my job concentration level slid). As an answer, I reduced my working hours to part-time. Granted, this greatly reduced my own income; however, I wanted to provide the best help and support I could to Mom and Dad before they both passed away. Working part-time allowed me more scheduling flexibility and kept my foot in the door with my employer.

Doing the same may be a viable option for you as well, but bringing seniors to work and looking after them there instead doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea! With Mom or Dad on-site at a caregiver’s workplace, that caregiver could better concentrate on the job at hand and could respond to potential emergencies much quicker. A working caregiver would not run the risk of being late to work in the mornings because he/she needs to deliver a parent to a day program before heading to the office. That same working caregiver could easily visit with Mom/Dad over a lunch hour and take his/her parent home at the end of the work day.

Furthermore, as a means of providing respite (and retaining long-time staff), forward-thinking companies would also greatly benefit through participating in such an arrangement. If a long-time staffer quits due to frustration and excessive caregiving strain an employer must fill that hole by advertising, short-listing, interviewing, hiring, and training a replacement. All of this takes time and money – it seems to me that an employer would be further ahead with temporarily accommodating a current worker and that individual may show his/her appreciation in return by working a little harder or longer when needed.

If you are a working caregiver and are starting the feel the squeeze placed on you, schedule a meeting with your employer. With some honest discussion about your own caregiving situation, your employer could be convinced to also offer your aging parent care or, at least, offer you more time off and/or scheduling flexibility so as to better deal with the situation. Either way, you could easily “work it out” and get the respite time that you so desperately need.

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About the Author

Rick Lauber , Author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians

Rick Lauber is the author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide (both books are published by Self-Counsel Press) - valuable and practical resources for family members, friends, spouses, and/or partners providing care to seniors. Lauber, a former co-caregiver for both his own aging parents, has written extensively about caregiving and senior’s issues for print and on-line markets, has guested on radio talk shows and television news programs, and serves, on a volunteer basis, on the Board of Directors for Caregivers Alberta.

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