Being a caregiver means devoting yourself, your time and your energy to another person – which can have a significant impact on time and energy spent elsewhere, particularly at work. According to AARP aging and family expert Amy Goyer, 42 million Americans balance full or part-time work with caregiving, and many do not ask for help. This leads to approximately seven in 10 caregivers making changes to their work schedule, having to cut back on hours, change jobs, take a leave of absence or stop work entirely. What most caregivers do not realize, however, is that they do have options and opportunities when it comes to balancing life and caregiving.
First and foremost, caregivers should speak to their Human Resources department regarding any circumstances around caregiving, and how it may potentially impact performance. While many people do not take advantage of flexible working hours or work from home policies, HR teams can usually accommodate within the means of company policy to keep employees on board. Caregivers should be as upfront as possible and communicate exactly what they need, as well as how invested they are in the company, to take advantage of these opportunities.
Second, caregivers should know that they are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a law allowing individuals at companies with at least 50 employees to care for a family member for up to 12 weeks (of unpaid leave) without losing their job or benefits. States have similar laws, and caregivers should look into how they’re protected before quitting their jobs.
Third, caregivers should investigate Eldercare programs at work, which typically include resources and referrals to community caregivers, on-site support groups and discounts for backup home care. If there is no formal Eldercare program in place, caregivers should ask about paid sick day and family leave options instead.
Finally, caregivers should set a plan in place with both their employer and coworkers if any emergency arises and they need to leave work early, or for a stretch of time. This way, everyone is on the same page, reducing stress for caregivers at work during a time of crisis.