Jeff needs to leave early today to pick his father up from the adult day center. Typically, the center provides transportation but today the van driver is out ill leaving the center without a replacement. Jeff’s boss has okayed his early departure, but Jeff can feel that patience is running thin, not only from his boss, but also from his colleagues.
Jeff’s colleagues are his age (late 20s), but they have no family responsibilities. They say they understand his need for a bit of flexibility in his schedule, but he wonders if they really do. And, today is the day before a huge project is due so temperaments are particularly testy. It’s just bad timing all around.
Holding down a job while providing care can be a tricky balancing act; it can be feel like Your Boss vs. Your Care Recipient. How do you avoid losing a battle with both?
Keep in mind these quick tips:
1. Understand your company’s benefits and policies. More companies offer progressive benefits to help employees caring for children and other family members. Benefits may include help finding resources, lunch-time seminars, subsidized back-up care, flex time and counseling services. Check with your Human Resources department to learn if your company offers any benefits.
2. Know that you cannot be discriminated against because of your caregiving role. Visit the government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website to learn more: http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/caregiving.html
3. Understand how the Family and Medical Leave Act can help you. Typically, employers with 50 or more employees are covered under FMLA. Visit here to learn more: http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/
4. Communicate effectively with your boss. Explain the caregiving situation, how you plan to manage it, and ask for feedback. You may start a discussion this way: “My father is not doing well and is now living with me. I have hired help and organized my family to assist to ensure my father is okay while I am here at work. It’s possible that I may encounter a crisis because my father’s health is unstable. What would be the best way for me to handle any crisis with you?” You also may want to ask your boss for suggestions on how to communicate this situation with your co-workers.
5. Ask co-workers if they have cared for an aging relative while employed with the current employer or know of others who have. Ask for suggestions on how they managed the situation.
6. Know who can help (professionals, family members, friends, neighbors) and how they can help; ask for and accept the help. A geriatric care manager can be a terrific investment to help find resources and oversee care.
7. Create a back-up plan. Ask yourself all the “What If?” questions you can think of. When developing your plan, ask for feedback from family, your friends, your support group, your caregiving coach, and a geriatric care manager. If appropriate, co-workers and management may be able to offer insights.
8. Set limits with family members and care recipients about your availability during work hours. Perhaps you determine you can be available during your lunch hour to field calls or for a few minutes during the afternoon. (Of course, during a crisis–and you may have to define “crisis” as others’ definitions may differ from yours–you are always available.)
9. Remember the Three Be’s of Caregiving: Be Prepared, Be Honest, Be Well; visit here. And, consider writing a Caregiving Mission Statement.
10. Forgive yourself for any bad days; give yourself a fresh start the next day. And, consider: In five years, when you look back at this time, what actions and decisions will make you proud?
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