Maintaining a career and taking care of an ailing loved one can be tricky. After more than 10 years helping with her parents’ caregiving, Lucy Lazarony has tried all the tricks to keep her career and creativity in balance (with various degrees of success).
Here are seven tips for juggling work and caregiving.
Reduce Your Hours
If your caregiving responsibilities increase, schedule a discussion with your boss to see if your schedule can change. Can you work four days a week instead of five, giving your employer 32 hours a week instead of 40? If you don’t want to give up the benefits of working 40 hours per week, maybe discuss working four 10-hour days. Doing so will free up an extra weekday to focus on caregiving and doctor’s appointments with your parents, things that are difficult to do on weekends and after work hours.
For me, after a year of worrying about my parents, I asked about going to a 32-hour-week. My boss at the time wasn’t amenable to discussing it until I used up all my personal and vacation time, so I quit instead. After seven years, I had plenty of money saved, so I started freelancing. For me, the stress of a 40-hour workweek on top of caregiving worries was just too much.
Another caregiver I reached out to at the time told me that going to 32 hours a week had worked for her and her company, so it is worth having the talk.
Work from Home
If reduced hours aren’t an option, can you telecommute? Do the bulk of your job from home, going to the office for obligatory meetings, so you can swing by your loved ones’ place as needed during the week. As long as you produce results, your boss may be just fine with telecommuting.
Shift Your Work Hours
If your employer agrees, working at night or early in the morning can give you more flexibility during days when your loved ones need more attention. This may appeal to night owls or early risers. As long as the work gets done, your boss may agree.
As a freelancer, I used this strategy a lot. Clearing out time for caregiving emergencies and challenges during my parents’ waking hours meant writing at night after a long day, but at least it was quiet and they were safe in their beds.
Is it possible to shift from a paycheck job to your own business? It can be a big transition, but you’ll have more freedom to set your own hours, and you’re ultimately the boss. So, if you want to spend more time with your loved ones during “working hours”, you can.
This strategy worked for me, but I also incorporated travel breaks when I could early on, which was possible because I had other siblings nearby who could help.
Work Part Time
If full-time employment is just too difficult to manage with demanding caregiving duties, consider a part-time job.
After my parents had moved to assisted living, I found taking a part-time job near them was a good option for me. Not having a steady paycheck was getting to me after several years of freelancing. Freelancing and my part-time job felt like a lot at the time, but I was able to have dinner with my dad several nights a week after work. After my mother’s passing, I also worked part time at my dad’s assisted living community (helping in the kitchen) for about three months, until I was ready to go back to writing again.
Utilize an Adult Day Care Center
Placing a loved one in an adult day care center during working hours can help you maintain momentum in your career, give you respite and peace of mind as a caregiver, and allow them to get the good care they need during the day.
We used this strategy with my mom, who had Alzheimer’s disease for more than 10 years. She attended an Alzheimer-specific day center in Boca Raton, Florida. for more than five years. It allowed all the family caregivers much-needed rest. My mother was eligible for a scholarship, so be sure to ask about financial aid when checking out daycare centers.
Get Paid as a Caregiver
If your loved ones agree, you can be “paid” for the time you spend as a caregiver and get reimbursed for expenses. At some point, every caregiver feels a financial strain, especially when caring for someone with a long-term illness. Instead of reaching for a credit card, ask your parents to pay you.
I opted for my own savings before even considering this strategy; while it feels good to give and be there as a caregiver, balancing your own financial needs is important, too.
Caring for an ill or elderly parent (or guardian) will be stressful and heartbreaking at times, no matter how well prepared you are. Have the conversations about finances to eliminate stress, while simultaneously making sure your loved ones are well taken care of.
Lucy Lazarony is a freelance writer living in South Florida. She writes about caregiving, the arts, and personal finance.
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