Working as a caregiver for a family member is not easy. It’s even more challenging when you’re employed. There are an estimated 53 million family caregivers in the United States, many of whom also work full or part-time.
Finding balance can be incredibly difficult when you’re juggling caregiving with a career. But not having the right work-life balance can put a strain on relationships with your spouse and children. This strain can also harm your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
For family caregivers, establishing a work-life balance is essential. The right balance provides everyone with the care they need. Ultimately, you want to prevent burnout, and you can do this by taking proactive steps to ensure you’re not sacrificing one part of your life for another.
In honor of National Family Caregivers Month (NFCM), we are raising awareness of caregiving issues to educate communities and increase support for caregivers. Let’s look at how to recognize caregiver burnout and exactly what you can do to achieve more balance when juggling responsibilities and self-care.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Burnout is often associated with people who are tired of their jobs but feel stuck. They want to get out, but they don’t know how and the everyday burdens are overwhelming. There is a feeling of entrapment and guilt that accompanies burnout, which can make it doubly difficult to spot and harder to lift yourself out of.
Unfortunately, these same feelings exist in the world of caregiving, especially when adult children take on the responsibility of becoming a caregiver for their parents—often, unexpectedly.
When you started caring for your aging parents, you didn’t feel guilty. You probably felt honored to take care of them like they once took care of you. However, as time passes, you may find yourself less enthused about all the responsibilities that come with taking care of an elderly loved one. And, of course, things get infinitely trickier when you need to provide personal support like bathing or mobility.
Though these responsibilities can be emotionally rewarding for you as a once-child of your now-aging parents, it also leaves you with less time and energy on your hands. For example, you may also realize that you no longer have time to do the things you once enjoyed. This is especially likely if you are working full time and caring for an elderly parent.
However, if you don’t have time for self-care, or a way to get the emotional support you need, your everyday routine will feel even more burdensome. This can lead to feelings of resentment, exhaustion, and an inability to complete all of your caregiving responsibilities.
Most working caregivers face burnout at some point. A common experience you’ll likely experience with caregiver burnout is the pervasive sense that juggling work and caregiving has become too much. Accompanied with this could other most common signs of burnout, which include:
- Feelings of uselessness
- Job dissatisfaction
- Trouble concentrating
- Lack of sleep
- Stomach and bowel pain
- Drinking, drugs, and other distractions
- Increased blood pressure
- Blurry vision
- Need to take more or frequent sick days
You’ll notice that these signs of burnout span the spectrum of physical, emotional, and even mental turmoil. The fact is that your overall health and wellness can become affected when you’re overwhelmed with managing your own life duties and that of your parents’.
Five Ways to Balance Your Responsibilities as a Working Caregiver
Balancing your ever-growing list of responsibilities is no easy task, but once you’ve established a routine and healthy boundaries, you will feel rejuvenated and empowered to be there for the ones you love.
When you are taking care of your parents, you have a lot on your plate. You have to remember their medication, appointments, and meals and then spend quality time with them.
While this is happening, you are trying to give the same attention to your spouse and children. To better balance your work and life as a family caregiver, here are five essential steps to take when balancing your responsibilities, work, and life.
Step #1: Create an Assistance Plan that Includes Home Care
Home care is an excellent option for someone looking to improve work-life balance as a family caregiver. Many caregivers have personal experience helping older family members and most home care providers offer respite services to provide much-needed relief.
The reality is, people in the caregiving community know the challenges first-hand. Therefore, they understand the toll it takes on a person, and they know how to help.
Home care can be as short or as long as you want during the day and as frequent as you want during the week. Your personalized care schedule is entirely flexible.
Likewise, home care services can help offset some of the responsibilities. These include:
- Medication reminders
- Meal preparation
- Light housekeeping
- Personal care
- Respite care
With these options available, you can delegate responsibilities to someone who has the right skills and background. This will give you time to de-stress and take care of your work tasks, all while knowing your loved one is fine.
Step #2: Set Boundaries With Your Loved One
Understandably, you want to be by your loved one’s side at all times. However, it is not physically possible for you to be at their beck-and-call when you have a job. From the moment you begin providing care, you need to create clear boundaries.
Boundaries will help your family members know when they can expect you to be with them and when you will be unavailable. Having limits makes the moments you are together much more special. Setting up boundaries also shows mutual respect for one another’s time.
When coupled with home care, you can teach your parents what they can expect from you and what they can expect from the home care worker.
Step #3: Establish a Schedule and Routine
Once you have established boundaries and hired home care, it is easy to establish a schedule and create your family’s routine.
The schedule organizes appointments and shows when specific individuals will be visiting for assistance. This plan will help everyone stay on the same page regardless of their roles in caring for the family member.
It would be best to keep a monthly calendar somewhere visible so all helpers can keep tabs on what’s going on and when something is needed. Use it to list tasks, such as preparation for family events and trips to medical appointments, as well as who is responsible for what.
Likewise, a routine is necessary to establish order and familiarity. A routine will enable your loved one to know what to expect each day. Here’s what to focus on for the routine:
- A wake-up time and bedtime
- Phone calls
Science has shown that routines are a great tool for combating mental health disorders. Therefore, not only will routines make everyone’s life easier, but they also support a more positive, happier lifestyle.
Step #4: Understand Your Workplace Benefits
One of the most overlooked ways of improving your work-life balance is knowing your employee benefits. The reality is, you might have access to more help than you realize through your job.
Familiarize yourself with your employee handbook and talk to your work’s HR department to find out what kind of benefits, resources, or even financial assistance may be available to you through your workplace insurance plan.
You can find access to counseling, family leave, and employer-sponsored parental care. Once you know your benefits, you can take advantage of the employee assistance program. Understanding your benefits can drastically change your stress level and help you establish a schedule and routine.
However, if you find yourself in a unique situation and need support outside of what your job offers, don’t be afraid to speak with your employer. Depending on your line of work, your employer may be open to providing remote work opportunities or shorter hours.
Step #5: Have a Backup Plan
Sometimes, life doesn’t always work out the way we had hoped or planned. Even when we organize and schedule in the details, things can inevitably take a wrong turn. In these types of situations, having a backup plan is essential to working as a caregiver and managing your work-life balance.
A backup plan lays out the groundwork for what to do when the unexpected occurs with your loved one. It should include contact information for other caregivers and health care providers, discuss steps to take if there’s an emergency, and outline alternative options for when you aren’t available to care for your elderly loved ones.
For example, if you were working remotely but now have to travel for work, you might have to get more support from a home care agency. Knowing they are providing companionship and personal care support while you are away gives you peace of mind. However, the backup plan you’ve discussed will help them understand what your expectations are when these unexpected events occur.
Alternatively, home care workers can, themselves, be your “backup plans.” They can arrive on the same day and provide 24/7 assistance for non-medical needs in cases of emergencies.
It is essential to keep your loved one involved in the plan. Ultimately, their well-being is at stake, so having their input can help you create the most effective strategy. Their valuable input can help you figure out the ideal hospital or clinic for emergencies.
It can also help you build a relationship with specific home care workers. If your senior is familiar with your home care worker, they can actively participate in the plan and feel comfortable asking for modifications. Involving a home caregiver early on in the process can help to make you feel less overwhelmed and your loved one feel less isolated.
When you have everything in place—your backup plan, support from work, clear boundaries and schedules, and help from a compassionate home care services provider—you can finally achieve the work-life balance you deserve.
Taking care of your family members is a noble task. But it’s also one that requires a huge amount of time and effort. To use your time wisely, you should take proactive steps to organize and simplify daily life.
When you combine all these strategies, you give yourself the best chance of spending equal time with your entire family and avoiding burnout.
At 24 Hour Home Care, we understand the importance of family. Many of our caregivers got into the home care business after being family caregivers for years. We know the toll it can take on your health and relationships. That’s why we want to help you establish a work-life balance and offer relief through our services, which include respite care. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.