You have a looming deadline at work and your mother keeps calling because your father has fallen yet again. You are notified by your mother’s housing provider to find immediate overnight care due to your mother’s dementia and wandering at night time. You are for late for work due to taking your Dad to this medical appointment and your supervisor immediately calls you into her office.
Almost 28% of Canadians combine paid work and caregiving. The majority of caregivers experience wonderful gains by giving back to the person they are caring for and enjoy strengthened family relations. However; the strains of caregiving take their toll: A quarter of caregivers report a change in employment including turning down training opportunities, promotions, taking a loss of income or simply have to quit their jobs altogether. Almost 15% report health and sleep problems and over a third report emotional difficulties due to caregiving.
Balancing caregiving and work situations vary tremendously and no single action plan works for everyone. Here are a few strategies to lighten your load and reduce stress.
Be honest and proactive. Describe the situation to your employer before it becomes a problem and let them know that you are committed to your job. Be honest with yourself. Don’t sugarcoat the situation. It won’t help you in the long run and will cause additional stress.
Recognize the signs of stress. Listen to your body – don’t wait until the physical or emotional consequences of stress impact you negatively. Identify one way you can support yourself with stress or consider professional help if you feel overwhelmed.
Learn what support is available. Can you work flexible hours? Do you have someone who can cover for you if you need to leave the office? Does your employer know about your eldercare situation? Are you comfortable talking to your direct superior or colleagues about your eldercare situation? What policies does your company have in place to support working caregivers?
Document, Document, Document. Create a file and keep track of information about your assessment. Such documentation serves as a valuable reference when dealing with your employer, colleagues, doctors and others involved in the person you are caring for.
Make your time your own. The people we are caring for may get into the habit of calling for any little thing, or simply because they are lonely. Set limits and schedule regular times when you will call or check in. Be present and compartmentalize -“work when you work,” “give care when you are caregiving,” and “play when you play.”
Wendy wrote this article as part of her work with Family Caregivers of BC.
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– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC
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