Tell your boss about your caregiving demands

By Carmen Costantino
May 27, 2011

If only balancing work and eldercare were as simple as a basic mathematical equation! But wait, maybe it is…

Assessing work situation + assessing how eldercare activities affect your work = identifying a plan to achieve balance

OK, OK, it’s a stretch but a good place to start.

Our last column talked about the first part of the equation — assessing your work situation; that is the level of impact eldercare is having on your work, your job responsibilities and how much flexibility you have in your workplace and the level of trust with those you work with.

The second part of the equation is to better understand your caregiving role in relation to your work life. How does this differ from your caregiving role in general you ask?

Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say one of your roles as a caregiver is to drop in at Mom’s each morning to check in with her and to help her get going. You might ask yourself, “How often and how does this activity affect my work?”

Your answer might be, “Daily. I’ve had to call in and let my colleagues know I’ll be 30 minutes late three times this week.”

Take a few minutes and create a table of three columns and five or six rows. Leave enough space to write down examples.

The first column will be for your caregiving role or task that you do to help a loved one. The second column is reserved for how often you need to do this activity and how often does is affect your work.

Your last column is reserved for ideas on how to deal with it. In the example above, you may put down ideas like rearranging my work schedule, having Mom assessed by a government funded or private home support agency, etc.

Once completed, you should be left with a work situation assessment and defined caregiving activities that impact your work situation as well as some ideas to better manage your competing roles as caregiver and employee.

If you haven’t had the conversation with your employer or colleagues about your caregiving situation, now is the time to do it. Letting your manager and your close co-workers know what is going allows them the opportunity to provide support.

People notice when a colleague isn’t able to give 100 per cent. If information about your current eldercare situation isn’t shared, some colleagues may feel resentful and others may make other assumptions.

If, based on your assessment you are not comfortable bringing up the subject with your supervisor, consider contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Human Relations staff at your workplace.

Many businesses have family-friendly options that can help balance the demands of family caregiving and work. Research shows that more often than not, employees and employers are simply not aware of what help is available. Employer and union collective agreements have several family-friendly work provisions that may apply to your situation.

In two weeks, we’ll cap off our Work and Eldercare series by providing readers with a summary of options available through major B.C. collective agreements.

If that doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat, I don’t know what will!

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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