How can I juggle work and caregiving?
By Amy Goyer
More than 60 percent of unpaid family caregivers also work at a paid job. You may be surprised to learn that if family caregivers stop working to care for loved ones, they stand to lose about $300,000 in lifetime wages and benefits. That’s a very significant impact. Yet, it can be difficult to work all day or night and then spend the equivalent of another part-time or full-time job caregiving for family and friends. Here are some things to consider if you’re a working family caregiver.
Use flexible work options
For some family caregivers, simple adjustments can make it possible to keep working. Ask your employer about these and other options (either on an ongoing basis or on an as-needed basis):
- Working from “anywhere” (e.g. your home or your loved ones’ homes).
- Adjusting work hours, such as:
- Starting your work day later so you can help loved ones in the morning.
- Interrupting your work day to take care of a loved one, then going back to work later, completing your hours/work without taking leave.
- Working a “compressed” work week which involves working longer hours most days of a week or a two-week pay period, so you then have a day or two off every week/pay period.
- Adjusting work location — for example working at a store, branch, or other job site that is closer to your loved ones’ home.
Cut back on the amount of time you work
If you find you can’t continue working as much while also meeting your caregiving responsibilities, there may be options other than quitting, including:
- Going from full-time work to part-time.
- Proposing a job-sharing arrangement with another employee in which you essentially split a job role or “slot,” with each of you working part-time to complete the job.
- Asking for a phased retirement in which you gradually decrease work hours over time. This may be helpful if you aren’t too far from retirement but not ready to stop altogether, or if your employer depends on you to help train your replacement.
- Retiring (be sure to consult with a financial advisor before making this decision).
Find out what type of leave options your employer offers that you are permitted to use for caregiving, including:
- Paid family caregiving leave (created specifically and only for family caregiving).
- Paid sick leave.
- Paid vacation leave.
- Paid personal days.
- Unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or another state or employer policy that allows you to take unpaid time off but guarantees your job or a similar job when you return. (See the Resources section, below, to learn more about FMLA and other paid or unpaid leave options.)
Take advantage of employer supports
Some employers may offer benefits that can be helpful to family caregivers, such as:
- An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides services like counseling or life coaching, assistance finding eldercare services, caregiving assessments, eldercare attorneys, grief support and more.
- Free or discounted legal or financial services.
- Free or subsidized backup care for loved ones when your ongoing care plan falls through.
- Groups for employees who are family caregivers, often called “employee resource groups.” These groups are voluntary and are usually employee-led. You can connect with caregiving co-workers, learn about caregiving resources, etc.
- Stress reduction activities, such as onsite yoga, meditation, fitness facilities or classes.
Find out more about the challenges and options for working caregivers in our Real World Health Care blog post, Two Full-Time Jobs: The Challenges of Being a Family Caregiver While Working.
- Caregiving While Working (AARP)
- Caregiver and Working Full Time? Tips for Managing It All (National Institute on Aging)
- Family and Medical Leave (U.S. Department of Labor)
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (U.S. Department of Labor)
- Family and Medical Leave: How to Tell Your Boss You Need Time Off (AARP)
- How Can I Take Time Off Work to Care for a Family Member? (Family Caregiver Alliance)
- How to Balance Work, Family, and Caregiving (The Caregiver Foundation)
- Supporting Caregivers in the Workplace (AARP)
- Paid Family Leave: States with Workplace Laws That Help Parents and Caregivers (AARP)
Amy Goyer is a nationally known caregiving expert and author of Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. A passionate champion for caregivers, she has also been one her entire adult life, caring for her grandparents, parents, sister, and others. Connect with Amy on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.