Caring for an aging parent or loved one can be highly rewarding. However, if you don’t have the right support, it can overwhelm other areas of your life — especially your career. Balancing work and caregiving can also be extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few tips and resources to help.
Updated May 30, 2022
Modified April 28, 2023
Balancing Work & Caregiving As A Family Caregiver
According to a 2019 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, nearly 10,000 people will turn 65 every day during the next 20 years. Most of them — almost 90% — want to age in place at home.
As more older adults live their golden years at home instead of assisted living or nursing facilities, the need for in-home care services will soar. For example, the number of Medicare-approved home care providers increased from roughly 14,100 to 16,600 from 2012 to 2016. Additionally, demand for home health and personal care aides will grow 36% from 2018 to 2028 — faster than any other occupation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
However, while this means job security for professional caregivers, demand for home health care already surpasses supply. COVID-19, labor shortages, and other factors have only worsened this problem, so consequently, more older adults will depend on family members to take on the role of caregiver. For many, this can make balancing work and caregiving a significant challenge.
Impact Of Family Caregiving On Work
The 2020 Caregiving in the US report from the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP found family caregiving rose from 18% to 21% from 2015 to 2020. Additionally, the average family caregiver provided about 23 hours of care per week.
Caregiving can seriously disrupt multiple areas of your life. And the impact can be particularly detrimental to employment if you are among the 60% of family caregivers working full-time. For example, AARP found:
- 53% of caregivers were late for work, left early, or took time off to provide care
- 15% reduced their work hours
- 14% took a leave of absence
- 8% received reprimands for performance or attendance
- 4% lost their workplace benefits
Furthermore, caregivers often change their employment situation when balancing work and caregiving becomes too much. Unfortunately, this change often contributes to caregiver stress by exasperating financial burdens.
9 Tips For Balancing Work & Caregiving
Caregivers wear many hats and are constantly pulled in different directions, leading to caregiver burnout. In addition, balancing work and caregiving can make achieving a healthy work/life balance feel unreachable. Although some employers offer support, not everyone has the same flexibility. Still, managing a healthy balance between your many roles isn’t impossible. Here are some ways that you can find that balance.
1. Utilize Employer Benefits
If your caregiving duties force you to take time off of work, arrive late, or leave early, approach your manager or HR department to discuss possibilities to minimize disruptions and develop a contingency plan in case of an emergency. For example, your employer may offer job-sharing, leaves of absence, or telecommuting. Plus, with more people working from home, remote work may be viable for balancing work and caregiving.
More companies recognize working caregivers’ challenges and offer workplace benefits such as paid family leave and sick days. So get acquainted with your employer’s leave policies to learn if you can use personal, sick, or vacation days for caregiving. In addition, some companies have a program for donated leave where coworkers give you their unused time.
2. Research Employee Assistance Programs
Some companies provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which offers:
- Eldercare assessments
- Legal help
- Financial counseling
- Insurance support
Some employers reimburse alternative caregiving services like adult day care if you have to work. In addition, more businesses are adopting employee programs like on-site support groups, concierge services, discounts, and health and wellness plans to help lower stress and make balancing work and caregiving somewhat easier.
3. See If You're Eligible For The Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides qualified individuals working in public organizations, public and private schools, and companies with over 50 employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually and job protection. Caregivers serving in the military are allowed up to 26 weeks. In addition to the federal FMLA program, your state may have specific family and medical leave policies. This extra time can help you create a plan to make balancing work and caregiving easier.
4. Inquire About Paid Family Leave
Extra paid time off is essential for family caregivers who take a lot of time off work to care for a loved one. It also goes a long way toward making balancing work and caregiving easier. So if you live in one of these states, you could receive some level of paid or unpaid family leave in addition to that provided by the FMLA:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- New Hampshire
- Washington, DC
5. Utilize Flexible Spending Accounts (If Applicable)
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are a benefit many employers offer but few caregivers utilize. FSAs make balancing work and caregiving easier because you can use them to offset some caregiving costs. For example, employees can contribute pretax dollars up to a certain amount each year, which some companies even match. In addition, caregivers can use this account to pay for respite care or in-home services depending on the plan.
6. Try To Adjust Your Schedule
Sometimes, balancing work and caregiver is just a matter of rearranging your work schedule. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies have implemented more flexible scheduling options.
For instance, flexible hours would let your workday begin later so you can assist your loved one earlier in the day. Alternatively, another option could be a compressed schedule where you work four long shifts and get the fifth day off for caregiving.
If you don’t have a set schedule, ask your employer to develop one with you so you can make arrangements more efficiently. For example, some caregivers elect to share jobs with a coworker or switch to part-time. Or, if your employer provides phased-in retirement, you could gradually reduce your hours.
7. Use Technology To Save Time
Online ordering, banking, prescription management, and other online tools make balancing work and caregiving easier by helping you save time on routine tasks. According to AARP’s 2020 Caregiving in the US report, 60% of caregivers used the Internet to help with at least one caregiving task:
- 23% searched for support services
- 26% managed prescription refills
- 22% ordered groceries and other household goods
- 19% watched tutorials or informational videos
- 11% created a shared calendar to organize caregiving schedules
- 10% utilized ride sharing
- 8% connected with other caregivers through social media
- 4% had a virtual health appointment
With that in mind, you might consider using online platforms more regularly to save time on routine tasks and make more time for yourself.
8. Reconsider Your Commute
As a caregiver, your free time is sparse; if you have a long job commute, your time is even more limited. Therefore, less time commuting to where you spend most of your days could be a practical idea for balancing work and caregiving.
Consider a short-term rental close to your patient’s home if your situation allows. Alternatively, you could use the time during a long commute to try a productive activity that stimulates your mind and lowers stress, such as:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Listening to audiobooks
- Learning a language
- Listening to a podcast
Lastly, if your employer operates across several locations, moving to one nearer to you or your loved ones’ home can shorten your commute, saving time and making balancing work and caregiving easier.
9. Don't Stretch Yourself Thin
Most caregivers are empaths who genuinely love helping others. But for many — including yourself — “no” may not be in your vocabulary. But as a caregiver, being honest with your schedule is an essential part of balancing work and caregiving. To that end, recognize how many hours you can work, and don’t be afraid to say no if someone requests more than that from you.
A manageable work schedule lets you rest and recharge so you perform your best — a win-win for you and those you care for. If you find it difficult to say no to others or care for yourself, remember that self-care is a vested interest for yourself and your loved one.
Struggling With Balancing Work & Caregiving?
MeetCaregivers Can Help
Creating a healthy and enjoyable living situation for others is a part of the job, but that doesn’t mean it has to come at your expense. Hopefully, these ideas will help make balancing work and caregiving easier.
Consider hiring a qualified caregiver if you need help balancing work and caregiving. MeetCaregivers ensures that your loved one receives the best care while you rest and recharge. But, of course, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help! Find a caregiver or call 1 (888) 541-1136.
Visit the Blog for more information and resources for caregivers, family members, and seniors.
- AARP, and Amy Goyer. “6 Ways to Balance Life, Work and Caregiving.” Glassdoor Blog, 29 June 2017, www.glassdoor.com/blog/6-ways-to-balance-life-work-and-caregiving/.
- AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001
- Gates, M. (2022, May 2). Caregiver Employee Benefits That Help Caregivers Find a Work-Life Balance. APlaceForMom.com. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/employee-benefits-can-help-caregivers
- Kaestner, Amanda. “How to Find Work Life Balance as a Paid Professional Caregiver.” The Caregiver Space, 25 Oct. 2014, thecaregiverspace.org/find-work-life-balance-paid-professional-caregiver-2/.
- Vandenbroucke, G. (2019, May 30). How Many People Will Be Retiring in the Years to Come? Saint Louis Fed Eagle. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from https://www.stlouisfed.org/on-the-economy/2019/may/how-many-people-will-be-retiring-in-the-years-to-come