You’re working full time and busy with other responsibilities, such as raising your children, taking care of your home, or doing volunteer work. Suddenly, your spouse, parent or other loved one develops a serious illness, developmental disorder or disability that requires regular caregiving. Will you decide to take on that role in addition to everything else?
More people are saying “yes,” and it is having a major impact on the U.S. workforce and economy. According to a survey published by the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI), one in five full-time workers is a family caregiver, whether by choice or necessity.
The Caregiving Decision
“In some families, it’s just assumed that a relative will help when someone needs it,” says Victoria Johnston, Owner/SDCS, Right at Home Snohomish County. “For others, financial realities may be the deciding factor. If appropriate care can be provided at home, that can cost significantly less than a group residence such as an Adult Family Home, nursing home, assisted living community or memory care facility.”
More recently, the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many families wanting to keep older loved ones at home for as long as possible. Yet even that decision can be fraught, as parents worry that their caregiving needs will burden their adult children.
Whatever road brought you to family caregiving, here are some tips to manage it while keeping your full-time job.
1. Get Help
“Ask for what you need,” Johnston advises. If you’re caring for your mom, for example, can she stay with your sister, who lives out of state, for a few weeks each year? Can your brother who lives nearby come over two evenings a week while you go to the gym? Friends, neighbors, and members of your loved one’s faith community might step in as well.
Find out if any assisted living or memory care residences in the area offer respite care. “Your loved one will live in the residence while you take a break, and they will enjoy the same care, activities and meals as full-time residents,” says Johnston.
Reputable home care agencies can also provide caregivers or aides specifically for your needs, on a schedule that works for you. Agencies can help with anything from respite care, grocery shopping and transportation to giving medication reminders and doing light housekeeping. Be sure to find an agency whose staff are trained, licensed, and bonded/insured.
2. Talk to Your Employer
In the RCI survey, employed family caregivers said they want flexible scheduling, remote work or telework, specialized caregiver services, and other options. Fortunately, more employers are seeing the value of supporting working caregivers, so be open with your employer about your situation.
“You might feel hesitant to bring personal concerns to work,” Johnston notes. “But remember that your company is as eager as you are to reduce the impact of caregiving on your productivity.” Your boss or human resources department can answer your questions about the company’s policy on family leave, flextime, telecommuting, and job sharing.
3. Protect Your Financial Well-Being
A study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute showed that working caregivers experience an average loss of $700,000 over their working life due to lost wages, reduced pension and other retirement account contributions, and lower Social Security benefits. They jeopardize their own retirement savings, often going into debt.
Talk to other family members. “They may not realize what serving as the primary caregiver is costing you and might chip in for home care or other care support,” Johnston says.
Is your loved one a Veteran or the spouse of a veteran, do they have a Long Term Care Insurance Plan or an approved Medicare company in Washington State for home care services? Right at Home Snohomish County can work with all these means of payment including private pay.
4. Finding a Balance
Taking steps to better manage your work and caregiving roles will not only benefit you, but also the person you are caring for. A common motto cited by caregiving experts is: “Taking care of yourself makes you a better caregiver.” It can make you a better employee, as well!
About Right at Home Snohomish County & N. King
The Right at Home Snohomish County and N. King office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, LLC, serving the communities of Marysville, Everett, Snohomish, Arlington, Lake Stevens, Granite Falls, Smokey Point, Bothell and Mill Creek with other areas in between. For more information, contact Right at Home Snohomish at 425-290-1714 or visit our website at Rightathome.net/Snohomish-County