Caregiving : Balancing Work and Caregiving
Posted by 4Hope on Jun-16-2005 (2279 reads)

How do I keep the plates of work and caregiving for a loved one up in the air at the same time? That's the question nearly 22 million Americans ask themselves each day as they try to make sense of their priorities.

Last month, Barb recorded a Community Focus segment for KEOM - 88.5FM with Dr. James Griffin. In the brief time we have, she offers some ideas and resources that can ease this burden a little.

Balancing Work and Caregiving
Taped in the KEOM Studios
May 18, 2005

Q: So, Barb, what are we talking about today?

A: Today, I thought we'd talk about balancing work and caregiving. AARP says this: “Nearly 22 million American workers are caregivers for their parents or loved ones.” Some of these caregivers are holding down more than one job. In addition, many are caring for children.

Q: That's quite a load to carry around.

A: Indeed, it is. And, certainly, it has costs on the caregiver's health, often on their work environment, and certainly on the quality of time that they are able to spend with all those they are caring for. And, while caregiving is ultimately often a choice of the heart, it can be emotionally draining in ways that are unparalleled.

Q: So, given all those demands, how do they balance their professional life with their caregiving life?

A: One of the best ways is to try to find employment that offers some sort of flex-time approach to working hours. This can help enormously to ease the burden of juggling some of the time issues. Many employers have such programs and are willing to offer them if it keeps good employees around. By the way, for any employers who might be listening, flexibility in this area doesn't cost – it pays. As we talk to employees who are or have been caregivers, when they have felt supported by their companies through the caregiving process, they report much greater desire to be productive and greatly increased job loyalty to their employers. As one might guess, those who have not been supported, after the end of the caregiving experience, find the strength to move on and invest their lives in a place where they feel valued. At any rate, investigate your flex-time options. Also, increasingly, there are options in telecommuting.

There are also a number of community options available for caregivers. For instance, some organizations provide respite services for caregivers. In these kinds of programs, the organization pays for a facility to take care of a loved one or they provide home care for a time in order for the family to get some rest. Churches are also very good resources for support. Some churches have parish nurses that try to attend to needs like this. We have seen several churches in the Dallas area that have very active caregiving programs.

Q: It seems like it would also be important to make sure that we take time for ourselves.

A: Absolutely. Theologian Howard Hendricks said: “You cannot impart what you do not possess.” That is especially true for caregivers. We seek to give the gift of love, care in the most hospitable place possible, and reassurance. But, that is hard to do if we are so stressed out ourselves. We cannot give the gift of our love if we are on the edge of burnout ourselves. For many folks who are there for their loved one all the time, we encourage them to back off just a little for just a trial period. During those times away, focus on nurturing self, doing things that you want to do. After giving themselves permission to take that break, then actually doing it, these overwhelmed caregivers often report back that they feel like they have so much more to give emotionally when they are there than they ever had to give before. And, finally, take time to express gratitude for all those who pitch in to help in whatever way. A kind word to an aide or nurse can make them so much more likely to add a special little touch to the care they give your loved one. Perhaps Charles E Jefferson said it best: “Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.”

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