Resources for Working Family Caregivers

"Hi Dad! How was your day? I’ll be home soon." Taking advantage of services for seniors helps working caregivers balance their job and home life.

Part II of a 2-part series

Last month, a report from AARP found that discrimination against family caregivers is on the rise. This is yet another challenge for these very busy people! In the September 2012 issue of the Hand in Hand newsletter, we took a look at some of the issues faced by employees who are serving as a family caregiver for an older or disabled loved one. If you are currently a working family caregiver, what can you do to help balance your work and caregiving responsibilities? The first step is to make a plan and do your homework. Are you taking advantage of available resources? Are you trying to do it all alone, rather than asking for help? Here are some questions to ask as you assess your situation:

Q: Have I investigated resources available through my company?

More and more companies realize that assisting caregivers is part of a good employee retention strategy. Although some family caregivers are hesitant to discuss their situation, not wanting to bring personal problems to work, remember that your company is as eager as you are to lessen the impact of caregiving on your productivity. Talk to your supervisor or Human Resources department about your current situation. Ask if your company has an employee assistance resource and referral program that offers family caregiver information and support. Find out the company's policy on family leave, flextime, telecommuting and job sharing. This is a positive step to help your company recognize your needs—and that of other employed caregivers.

Q: What support services are available in my community?

As a caregiver, you are not alone! Take the time to investigate support services available for caregivers:

  • Professional home caregivers can come to your loved one's home to provide a wide range of services, including assistance with personal care and the activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, using the toilet), meal preparation, housekeeping and companionship to keep your loved one safe and active.
  • Adult day centers provide daytime care and social activities for older adults. Programs vary as to the amount and type of care available; services might include meals, transportation, healthcare services and rehabilitation.
  • Geriatric care managers (GCM) are eldercare professionals who can assess your loved one's needs, and develop and implement a personalized plan of care, taking into account the needs of your older family member and your own work issues as well.
  • Respite care programs provide temporary relief for caregivers. This may be a professional caregiver who comes into the home, or your loved one may go to a short-term program at a hospital, assisted living community or skilled nursing facility.
  • Support groups provide emotional support, information sharing and companionship for caregivers, who often feel isolated. It helps so much to share experiences with someone in the same boat as you!

Some support services are available at no cost; others you or your loved one must pay for. But it is often worth paying out of pocket in order to keep your career on track. And if you feel guilty about "bringing in outsiders," remember that depending less on you can increase your loved one's sense of independence, freeing both of you to enjoy each other’s company more and spend a relaxed time together.

Q: Am I trying to do too much?

With today's smaller families and our mobile society, sometimes only one family member is available to serve as the family caregiver. But other times, it happens that one family member gradually evolves into the main caregiving role as their loved one's condition changes, without anything really being discussed. Is it time to revisit the arrangement in a family meeting? Discuss with siblings the financial and personal costs of your caregiving duties. Can your brother provide respite some evenings? Can Mom visit your out-of-state sister for several weeks? Learn to delegate.

Even if you are the only family caregiver for your loved one, can you expand your support team with friends, neighbors, members of your or your loved one's faith community? What about volunteers? Set priorities in other areas of your life, as well—can you temporarily give up some of your other commitments, especially those that you don’t really enjoy?

Q: Am I taking care of myself?

Working family caregivers are highly susceptible to "caregiver burnout." They feel confused, fatigued, constantly worried, angry…and then, often, guilty about having those feelings! Caregivers should remember that taking care of themselves is part of caring for their loved one. As you investigate resources to help in your loved one's care, don't forget to carve out some time just for yourself…time to nurture your spirit and "recharge your batteries." This will not only make you a better family caregiver, but a better employee, as well.

The numbers are in: more and more workers will be faced with family caregiving issues as Baby Boomers age. If you're already dealing with these competing demands, remember that finding balance between your personal life and work life is a key task—and getting help is part of achieving that balance.

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge; © IlluminAge 2012