How to Balance Your Career and Being a Caregiver

June 19, 2024  | 

“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” Tia Walker

As dementia consultants, we are constantly meeting caregivers of all ages. However, we are most frequently guiding caregivers who are in the sandwich generation. These caregivers are not only caring for an aging parent, but also have children at home to care for. Exhausted thinking about this? Well, don’t forget that these caregivers are also most likely a full time employee as well. So, not only are they trying to care for their aging parents and their children, but they are also doing their best to be present at work and provide for their family.

You hear about caregiver burnout all of the time. These are caregivers who are providing care to someone, but not providing care to themselves. So they begin to burn the wick at both ends leaving their cup half empty and opening themselves up to physical and mental health struggles. So, how can you possibly be a full time working professional as well as a full time caregiver?

To avoid caregiver burnout, and still show up for yourself and your family, there are steps that should be taken to make sure that everyone involved is getting what they need. Some tips to achieve this include:

Ask for and accept help: this can be challenging to do. Most people feel as though they will be viewed as weak if they accept and ask for help. However, caregiving is something that no one should and cannot do alone. Getting help from others will be beneficial to everyone involved for numerous reasons.

Time Management: use a calendar to plan out your time. Having a schedule, with the knowledge that plans can change on a dime, will help you to prioritize your schedule. This will make it easier for you to complete your work tasks on time, while also making sure that you are giving the necessary time and attention to yourself and your family.

Take Care of YOU: Yes, YOU matter just as much, if not more, than those you are caring for. How can you possibly take care of your aging parents and your family if you are not putting the work in for you. If you have poor physical and mental health due to putting yourself last, then it will make it that much harder for you to show up appropriately for those that you care for. Additionally, this increases the risk of health struggles that can make it impossible for you to care for your loved ones which only makes a stressful situation more stressful. So, plan some time for you each week. Whether this is a brisk walk, stepping outside for fresh air, reading a book, or a nice hot shower. Whatever you find relaxing, do it!

Have Coping Skills: Being a caregiver is hard. Watching your loved one progress in their illness is harder. As dementia consultants, we see this area being incredibly challenging for caregivers. A person living with dementia can change from moment to moment, so just when you learn to cope with where they are in their journey, they progress further and you find yourself having to relearn how to cope with the new struggles in front of you.

Talk to Your Employer: be upfront with your employer that you have a lot going on at home as the caregiver for a loved one. Let them know that there may be days where you need to work from home or take off, and that these days could happen unexpectedly. The more open and honest you are, the more likely your employer is to empathize and make arrangements to support you.

At the end of the day, you have the ability to control your environment. Try not to let the role of the caregiver take control of your life, because you have the power and the ability to control your happiness. We all need to protect ourselves each and every day, and you can do this by taking the proper steps to put yourself first.

This is a contributed blog post by Shari Flight, the Owner and Co-founder of Ember Holistic Care LLC alongside Katie Fournier, LPN. Shari has over 14 years of experience working with those living with dementia and their caregivers. Together, she and Katie saw the need for increased support for the caregivers as well as the benefits of alternative approaches to combat dementia related behaviors before turning to medications. With their joint passion and desire to help as many people as possible, Ember was born.

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