How to Balance Work and Caregiving for a Family Member

Are you someone who has an older family member, but are also working full time? Perhaps you currently work full time in an office but need to leave from time to time to take care of your loved one. Sometimes it may feel like you are abandoning your responsibilities at work or your responsibilities to your relative. This is a tough balancing act to handle. If this sounds like you, then here are some things that you should review.

Your Employer Cannot Discriminate

First and foremost, know that your current employer cannot discriminate against you for being the caregiver of a family member. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “unlike childcare…eldercare responsibilities generally increase over time as the person cared for ages, and eldercare can be much less predictable than childcare because of health crises that typically arise”. This means that as a caregiver, you will likely spend more time taking care of the person you love, and this could create conflicts at work. According to the EEOC, an increasing number of Americans are caregivers for their elderly family members and this will only trend upwards as the Baby Boomer population get older. 

Look into the current benefits and policies from your employer. 

Some companies actually do offer help to working caregivers taking care of their family members. This sometimes includes assistance finding resources, subsidized back-up care, flexible schedules, or counseling. You can speak with your Human Resources department to learn more about these benefits.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Furthermore, read up on the Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA dictates that eligible employees of covered employers are able to “take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms.” Those employees may take twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for situations such as a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition, the birth of a new child, or the employee themselves suffering from a health condition.

Communicating with your employer is key to maintaining the balance between work and care giving for your loved one. 

You may need to explain your loved one’s current debilitation, how they affect your schedule, and how you will have to leave work in response to a crisis. 

Ask your employer how you should discuss this issue with your fellow coworkers. They may be able to assist you with work responsibilities when you are responding to an emergency. See if any of your coworkers are in a similar role with a family member. Ask them about how they handle crises when they occur and if they have any advice for you.

Don't Try to go it Alone - Ask for Support 

Being a caregiver can be rewarding for you and your loved one, but you may need help from family and friends. Ask for help when you need it. You can always look for professionals in your area with the knowledge to help you manage your caregiving duties. Create boundaries and limits with your family members and care recipients about your availability while you are working. 

Perhaps you can be available during your lunch or have a half-day once in a while. Always have a backup plan for when things don’t go according to plan. Ask for feedback or advice from family members, a caregiving professional, or your support group about what you can do to help your loved one. Remember, you’re not the only one in this boat, so even when it seems impossible, remember that you have options.




Harley Petrina is the writer of Phoenix, Arizona based companies Senior Planning and Prime Medical. Founded in 2007, https://www.seniorplanning.org/ has helped many Arizona seniors and their families navigate the complicated process of long term care planning with regards to finding senior living facilities.

In his spare time, Jacob enjoys dining out and supporting his alma mater Arizona State's Sun Devil sports teams. Jacob lives in Tempe, Arizona.

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