by Kathy Kirchoff

Almost one third of the adult population is performing a caretaker role, averaging 20 hours of care a week; that’s equivalent to another part-time job. And the percentages are climbing (57 percent in 2004 vs. 65 percent in 2009). Are you one of these caregivers?


According to the Caregiving in the United States, Executive Summary:


  • 7 out of 10 people in a caregiver role are employed.
  • 66 percent of working caregivers have a flexible work schedule or have taken time off during the day to deal with caregiving issues.
  • 20 percent took a leave of absence.
  • The average caregiver is 48 years of age.


Juggling Two Life Roles

Caregiving can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially if you also have full-time work responsibilities and children still living at home. Some choose to reduce work hours, take a less demanding job, give up work entirely, turn down a promotion, lose job benefits, or take early retirement.


To cope, you may need to make changes to your job. First, make sure you explore flexible work options offered by your company, such as flexible work schedules, job sharing, compressed workweek, telecommuting, or unpaid leave. Here are some helpful tips before you speak with your boss:


  • Consider your employer's point of view. It is not your employer's job to make it easier for you to balance work and personal obligations. When discussing flexible work arrangements, it's best to present your proposal in terms of benefits for your employer.
  • Build your skills. People who are most likely to be offered work accommodations are those who are considered to be the most valuable employees. Make yourself someone that would be difficult to replace. According to a report released by the Council of Economic Advisers, higher skilled workers often have greater flexibility.
  • Think small. Companies with 50 to 99 employees are most likely to provide careers that offer flexibility. If your company has at least 50 employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may entitle you to unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.


If your current job doesn’t provide enough flexibility, you may need to consider a career change. Contract work or working from home may provide the flexibly you need. Some careers to consider include consulting, real estate, direct sales, writing, IT, web design, online or phone work, accounting, data entry, or medical coding. Visit ISEEK to explore career options that may offer flexible work.


Fortunately, more companies are taking the work and life balance issue seriously and realize that the need for flexibility is growing.  A happy, less-stressed employee is more productive. There are policies in place regarding work flexibility too.


Learn more about the resources available to help you balance work and caregiving. You need to also take good care of yourself and should not hesitate to find help to cope with your complex responsibilities.


10 thoughts on “The Balancing Act: Work & Caregiving

  1. I am brining my wonderful grandma home from the nursing home. She is going to live with me as she still needs 24 hour care. I am delighted to do this, however I went into work only to find out if I take time off, I will be fired. I can't think of a better reason to get fired, but I can't understand why grand parents and siblings are not covered under FMLA. She is going to be living with me it's not like im going there a few hours a day this is a huge commitment. She took care of me when I was younger, now it's my turn but I can't because my job won't let me? That just seems cold that I have to tell her that. This kind of stuff is why our country is falling apart. Whatever happened to god first, FAMILY second and career third.


  2.  Wonderful discussion here.  As Alexis pointed out, in many cultures caregiving is expected and embraced.  I do think that in American culture there can be tremendous conflict, because our hearts want to provide care, but our workplaces aren't always supportive.  This post was helpful for getting the conversation going in the workplace.


  3. It’s interesting because my initial interpretation when I read the title of this blog was that care giving was in reference to taking care of ourselves.  Even after reading the blog and realizing the intended meaning of care giving – taking care of other(s) – I still think my initial interpretation is relevant and quite possibly the over arching theme. I believe everyone is a caregiver, if not for someone else then certainly for ourselves. Self care should be a part time job and a mandatory job in fact. Ashley’s comment speaks to this intersection. The blog discusses ways to cope with juggling the responsibilities and offers suggestions which I take as self care. If individuals take heed to this then they will be able to not only take care of others more effectively but also themselves. This blog also resonated with me on a personal note because being a caregiver in my country is an assumed role for the majority of the population. It is as inevitable as negative degree temperature in Minnesota. Individuals know that the possibility of taking care of their parents is high. This is a hallmark of the collectivistic culture which has been perceived as different from American culture. However, based on the comments made it appears as though there are many exceptions making the universality of this blog entry compelling.


  4. This is a topic I find myself thinking about often. I grew up in a large household of six children and my mother was able to leave her career and be a stay at home mom. I truly appreciated having that experience and both of my sisters have made the choice to do the same, however I find myself much more inclined to find and keep a career even if children come into the picture of my future. I worry about my child/children not getting enough of my time (I feel I tend to get very wrapped up in my work) but I also worry that giving up a career to be a caregiver full time would be something I might possibly regret. Finding balance and a career or employer with the flexibility to allow for family life and career to be able to co-exist harmoniously would be a great blessing.


  5. Luckily I work in a place that values family commitment and has a flexible work schedule, unfortunately…  this position isn't a part of my career path and I'll be crossing my fingers and hoping (especially in this economy) that the career I build affords me the flexibility to care for my parents as they age, should they need my assistance.  That being said… I think it would be interesting to see some numbers representing how the understanding of this need for flexibility/and it's availability is actually growing in the United States.  I also think it would be useful to know whether this flexibility is something that is found more in low, middle, or high income jobs…  or blue or white collar jobs.  I like the links to the other articles and resouces, and think the point I found in one of the links regarding companies taking the need for flexibility more seriously regarding HR policies particularly keen.  Just because there is a policy or as an employee certain rights may provide for flexibility and protect you… it doesn't mean your HR representative is going to make those things clear to you.  It is important for the employee to be aware of their own policies and rights.  These sorts of resources are necessary for employees in these situations. 
    It's a nice outline for people who predict they will or have already found themselves in the situation where they are negotiating the balance between working and caregiving.


  6. This is a topic that is hitting close to home as I have watched my parents having to care for their parents. It also makes me think about the future and as our population begins to increase in age, how is this going to effect the workplace and those who have full time jobs. My dad's parents are recently both in rehab and nursing home facilities with major medical problems. My dad is the oldest of three but is the only one that is taking responsiblity and coordinating places for his parents to stay and get medical care. As he lives out of the city his parents are in and has his own business, he speaks to worrying about  his own business suffering due to having to help his parents. He would not not help them  but could use some more support. The other stressful piece is the financial end of it. People are outliving their money and so the burden is then falling on their children or all of the elder's things are being taken away by the state. This issue is one that I am glad is getting mroe attention as well. I feel that this is a common issue now among the baby boomers but that as the generations continue to age it could turn into a crisis as my generation has to care for their parents.


  7. As a caregiver I often see myself and my co-workers dealing with burn out. This can not only be harmful to the self but to the people we are supposed to be serving who don't understand our fatigue and don't deserve maltreatment. The issue of mental health for those who work in the mental health field is of utmost importance to be researched. Currently there aren't enough options for people within the field to find respite and also retain their jobs. Open communication between peers in the field is a start. I hope to see more workplaces being response to the needs of their employees in this field. 


  8. Balancing work and caring for those that cared for you is a very difficult job.  Over the past year, I've watched my Mother care for her parents, her children, and try to work.  My mother has opted to work for a job service where she's only employeed seasonally.  However; my grandparents health has been at its worse during the winter months.  It is rare to find a place of employment that does allow you off when there is a family emergency.  I hope that should I ever find myself in my Mother's shoes, I work for a place that also understands family commitment.


  9. Working as an in-home care giver for over six years I give family members so much credit for taking on the responsibility of a caretaking position for someone in their family.  My position often included household chores, shopping, managing money, meal planning, transportation to and participation in social activities, doctor's appointments, hair salon, chiropractor appointments etc., laundry, and most importantly companionship and care!  Basically, it can be like running two households, both in which you are emotionally vested.  I sincerely admire the family members who take on this great responsibility.  


  10. As the daughter of a mother who is caring for her elderly father in an assisted living home, it is nice to hear that this topic is getting more attention. It is also interesting to me that more work places are understanding and give extra time off for situations like the one my mom has found herself in. Although she doesn't take care of my grampa all day every day, she does need to go over to his apartment frequently throughout the week. And when he has had to move from location to another or go to doctor's appointments she has frequently needed to take extra time off from work in a short period of time. As work wasn't highest on her priority list while this was all going on, I have wondered what the work atmosphere and pressure was like for her. I wondered if her company was understanding or not. She is a manager of others, so she has less people to report to, but still, she has many responsibilities. It was also nice that there was information posted about how someone can get support, through an organization or the community. As we will continue to see more aging relatives who need support, it seems that we will continue to develop our support services as they relate to work places. Or at least I hope that will be the case.


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