Trusted medical advice from the
American Academy of Family Physicians.

Balancing Work and Caregiving

Caring for a loved one who is chronically ill can be very challenging. In addition, many family caregivers also work outside the home. If you do, you might feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of balancing all of your responsibilities. You’re not alone.

Path to improved well being

If you are having trouble balancing work with caregiving, there are some things you can do. Here are some tips to help you ease the burden.

Research employer policies and programs

Talk with your human resources department and look through your employee manual. Determine whether your company has policies in place or benefits available to help you manage your roles. Examples may include:

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – gives eligible employees 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave. They can use this to care for an ill family member. Taking this leave would not impact your health insurance coverage or job security.
  • Employee assistance programs – help employees deal with problems that might affect their work. Often, these programs include short-term counseling and referrals to services in the community.
  • Flex time – allows you to work a flexible work schedule. If your company offers flex time, your employee handbook should define it. Usually, there is a core period of time when you must be at work. You then create your schedule around these hours. For example, you may choose to work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Telecommuting – allows you to work from another location, such as your home or your loved one’s home.
  • Job sharing – when two people work part-time to share a job normally held by one person full-time.

Talk to your supervisor

Think about your company’s policies and what changes would help you better manage your responsibilities. Draft a proposal, then schedule a meeting with your supervisor to talk it over. Be honest about your situation and open to any ideas your supervisor may have. Be sure to communicate how the changes you’ve proposed will benefit your employer.

Be an activist

Your company or supervisor might not be able to accommodate your requests. Try not to be upset. Instead, set an example. Work with human resources to help your company’s leaders understand caregivers’ needs. Keep the channels of communication open and try again after some time has passed.

Things to consider

Some people have done everything they can to balance work with caregiving, but they still need help. If this is your experience, here are some resources you can look into:

  • Referral services – Many local, county, or state governments have agencies on aging. They can help you locate programs and services in your area. The U.S. Administration on Aging offers information on area agencies and other services. This can be found through its online Eldercare Locator tool.
  • Adult day care – These centers offer social and therapeutic activities in a safe environment. They often provide meals, personal care, medical care, and even transportation.
  • In-home care – This can be an informal arrangement with a friend, neighbor, or volunteer. It can also be a formal arrangement with a private aide or a home care agency.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What can I do to keep from getting overwhelmed when trying to balance work with caregiving?
  • What signs should I look for that I’m doing too much?
  • Can you fill out FMLA paperwork for me to give to my employer?
  • Can you refer me to an agency on aging so I can find more help caring for my loved one?
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