Elder Caregiver Basics: Work/Life Balance, Resources and Stress Management

Learning Objective
After completing this module, you will be able to:

1. Understand a process for managing work-life issues when you are a caregiver
2. Learn some strategies for juggling responsibilities
3. Understand the issues of working and caregiving
4. Have an approach for talking with your supervisor about work-life and elder care issues
5. Understand some strategies for taking care of yourself and seeking help

Index/Content of this Module  
This module is an overview of work-life issues for elder caregivers including:
(Click on a topic below to go to that area of the page)

1. Realities of Being a Working Caregiver
2. A Model for Work-Life Balance and Caregiving
3. Juggling Responsibilities
4. Managing Work Requirements
5. Talking with Your Supervisor
6. Taking Care of Yourself
7. Seeking Support
8. Know Your Company Benefits and Policies
9. Resources for Caregivers

Realities of Being a Working Caregiver

•  Nearly 60 percent of caregivers work full time
•  And – nearly 2/3 of these employees need to make adjustments in their work schedule (Society for Human Resources Management)
•  Caregiving impacts both men and women
•  About 44 percent of caregivers are men (National Family Caregivers Association)
•  It is easy to underestimate how much time caregiving will require
•  Long-distance caregiving increases the complexity of the situation

A Model for Work-Life Balance and Caregiving

Work/Life balance: “…..healthy work environments that value people and support personal life and family issues.”
The Alliance for Work-Life Progress, 2003

Using this process will help you be more in control of managing your varying work-life commitments. (These are the steps of almost all quality improvement processes.)
•  Assess your situation
•  Learn about resources
•  Weigh the options
•  Implement a plan
•  Monitor for changes
•  Adjust the plan

From Elder Care: A Six Step Guide to Balancing Work and Family,
John Paul Marosy, 2002

Strategies for Juggling Responsibilities

Working caregivers face constant demands for their attention among work, other family members and the complexities of caregiving.

Here are some strategies that can help:
•  Delegate some of the tasks of caregiving (hired help, family, friends, religious community, etc.)
•  Set priorities -focus on what is important to get done relevant to health, safety of care recipient
•  Plan for emergencies

Managing Work Requirements

•  Honestly assess your job
•  Assess the “climate” at work
•  Speak to others in your company about options that may have worked for them
•  Be proactive and creative and offer solutions rather expecting your manager to come up with ideas
•  Make use of resources at work
•  Remember that you are being paid to do a job. Use lunch and break times to make phone calls or use other resources.

Talking with Your Supervisor

•  Determine what and how much your supervisor needs to know about your situation
•  If you and your supervisor are not clear about the tasks for which you are accountable, there is no clear basis for a discussion about such alternatives as part-time work, flexible hours, etc., so start by having a clear job description and deliverables
•  Be specific about what you need
•  Is flex time possible where your hours could be adjusted to come in at times other than those currently scheduled?
•  Offer suggestions that will help your do your job but will allow you flexibility to meet your non-work demands
•  Be clear about how the business needs will be met in the context of your proposal
•  Ask about job sharing with another employee to cover times that you must be away
•  Set a timeframe to evaluate new work arrangements. Make adjustments, as needed

Taking Care of Yourself

Survey Highlights of People Who ‘Self-Identify’ as Family Caregivers, National Family Caregivers Association, 2000
•  91% believe “preserving your health” is a message that should be told to all family caregivers
•  30% exercise regularly since becoming caregivers, compared with 61% who exercised before becoming caregivers
   47% seek prompt medical attention for themselves compared to 70% who did so before becoming caregivers

It is important to take care of your own needs and your own health!
•Maintain (or establish!) good health practices
•Use your vacation time to recharge and relax as much as possible
•Enlist others to step in so you can take a break from caregiving
•Consider respite care
•Try to find a little time just for yourself every day to do something you enjoy (reading, walking, knitting, etc.)

Click here for some Tips for Finding Time and Taking Care of Yourself

Seeking Support

•Share caregiving responsibilities with your partner or spouse, siblings and other relatives.
•Ask for specific help
•Build and maintain a network of support (both formal and informal)
•Join a support group at work or in the community

Know Your Company Benefits and Policies

Know what your company offers:
•  Know your company benefits
•  Read related policy materials
•  Talk to your human resources department
•  Learn about FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)
•  Use Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits
FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) entitles eligible workers a maximum of 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave without loss of job security or health benefits. There are a variety of restrictions such as company size and the amount of time the worker has been employed.

Resources for Caregivers

Call
•2-1-1 throughout Texas. Provides information and access to health and human service information for all ages
•1-800-252-9240 to find local Texas Area Agency on Aging
•1-800-677-1116 – Elder Care Locator to find help throughout the U.S.
Online
•Family Caregivers Online www.familycaregiversonline.net
•Online education, resources, links, frequently asked questions
•Benefits Check-up www.benefitscheckup.org for an online way to determine benefits for which someone qualifies.

To schedule a caregiver presentation for your church, business, library, civic group, or other location, call your local area agency on aging or send an email from www.familycaregiversonline.net

What Assistance is Available Through the Area Agency on Aging (AAA)?

Caregiver Services:
•Information and referral
•Caregiver education and training
•Caregiver respite
•Caregiver support coordination
•Case management
•Transportation assistance

Services for Persons Aged 60 and Older:
•Benefits counseling
•Ombudsman – advocacy for those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities
•Home delivered meals
•Congregate meals
•Light housekeeping

Note that services vary so check with the agency for your county.

Written by: Zanda Hilger, M. Ed., LPC, Family Caregiver Education, Area Agency on Aging, Revised 2009 by Betty Purkey and Zanda Hilger.