If you are a caregiver struggling to balance your work and caregiving responsibilities, consider these tips to feel more empowered at work:
Be realistic. It is important to accept that you only have so much time in any given day. Although you may feel determined to complete everything with 110% effort, it is important to take care of yourself. Take time to consider how you can best balance your job, your caregiving, and your self-care. It is certainly a balancing act and it begins with being realistic.
Be honest. It is important to be honest with yourself and your employer about your limits and the assistance you may need. If you are worried that revealing these things will jeopardize your job, prepare for the conversation by creating an alternative plan for ways you can get adequate work done but still meet your loved one's needs.
Be creative. If you take the time to consider all possible solutions to your situation, no matter how outside the box they are, you might find one that meets your needs and your employer's. For example, is there another employee needing time off to go to appointments with a family member? Maybe you can suggest to your manager that you cover for each other? Working at home digitally might be also be an option, depending on your job. No matter what plan you suggest, remember that your health and well-being is most important, you should not stretch yourself too thin. It might be best to suggest a temporary trial of your plan to ensure it works for you and your employer.
Get plenty of rest. Getting adequate sleep as a family caregiver can be particularly challenging if you're providing hands-on care for an older adult or facing other stress. However, getting enough rest is crucial. When you are well-rested, you can be more productive at work and feel more energetic when faced with problems. Consider ways you can prioritize your sleep.
Consider arranging for help. Occasional help or rest can go a long way. Be sure to ask your employer about any back-up emergency care services they might offer through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If you have family nearby, they may also be able to help. Even if you don't, a long-distance family member could assist with certain tasks, such as finances and scheduling.
Educate your employer. Depending on your employer, your manager may not understand the kinds of issues faced by caregivers. For example, if your loved one has Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, your manager and co-workers may not understand the demands of these conditions. Try to explain the kinds of challenges you are facing. Look to the Alzheimer's Association and Help for Alzheimer's Families for information you can share.
Look for ways to give back. If your employer does offer you valuable flexibility and help, consider ways to pay it forward with your manager and co-workers. This behavior will help build morale and your co-workers may be more willing to help you out when needed in return.
Find outside support. Consider joining a support group in your area. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to learn what groups may be available in your area. If support groups don't interest you, there are other options such as your faith community or friends for emotional support. Connecting with others experiencing similar circumstances could be extremely meaningful. At the very least, do your best to make time for social interaction.