How To Balance Caregiving and Work
The latest figures in Ireland suggest that there are now over half a million family carers in Ireland (Irish Health Survey 2019). It’s something a lot of us might not think about until we are faced with it, but if you find yourself in a caregiving position while still at work it can feel overwhelming and like an impossible balancing act. Naturally there can be a lot of added stress and things to worry and/or organise that previously we would not have realized. In addition not all things fall into ‘ideal hours’ or a schedule of some sort when caregiving so with such significant roles and responsibilities that can be both rewarding and demanding. These ideas below hopefully might give you some points on where to start.
It can be tempting to think we can juggle everything, but usually somethings got to give so getting organised form the start and being realistic in your expectations for yourself can help. Your to-do list is definitely going to get bigger so now more than ever start to track what needs done and where possible get others to help and share the tasks with family life or caring activities.
While every work place is different it can’t do any harm to keep your employer or manager in the loop of your circumstances. In fact it’s probably best to factor in, making you look responsible instead of perhaps leaving any communication until there may be an emergency scenario. This way if you ever need to leave in a hurry or cannot attend one day you can have already planned and discussed for cover of your role if needed.
Read up on your HR and company policies and if there is something specific you feel your employer could do that will make things manageable it’s worth asking more about options, be it in flexibility (work location/hours), paid/unpaid leave, etc. You may even just find that making your workplace aware of your circumstances can be a relief as keeping it a secret or not informing your employer could cause some people to be anxious or worried about ‘what if’ scenarios arise and your employer knowing and discussing this can put your mind at ease
It might seem impossible to fit everything in, and most of us are guilty of putting other’s needs before ours, however burnout and stress are linked to caregiving so it’s important to safe guard yourself for your own health and those who rely on you. Stress relievers such as exercising and making time for your hobbies should be just as important on your to-do list.
Although you will never cover every emergency situation, it’s worth exploring some common scenarios you feel you may find yourself in and plan out the best course of action in advance and then you will also be able to communicate this with other people who are willing and able to be involved to help. Think about family life (picking up and dropping off kids), work life (leaving early or arriving late) and caregiving duties (an ability to visit yourself, etc.)
While it can be tempting to assume other people will offer help when they can there are many reasons this doesn’t always happen. People may be scared incase you may take offensive to offers of help, they may not want to bring up the topic unless you do or simply we just get bogged down in our own lives to notice so it’s a lot easier and quicker to ask for help. This way you can also stipulate the kind of help that will be beneficial for you.
Community groups are another good point of contact for any advice and support you may need.