When Caregiving Costs Your Career

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A family caregiver gives up many things to provide full-time care to aging family members. We’ve already discussed how caregiving can impact your marriage and your parenting effectiveness, but what about your career? Whether you are climbing a corporate ladder somewhere or working in an hourly capacity, finding the time to be a full-time caregiver can seriously hurt your ability to keep your balance between your workplace and your care responsibilities!

When aging parents or relatives need help, the career path of their adult child may be significantly altered if they are needed to provide assistance, either temporarily or for an extended period of time. Most employers can withstand a few days of unplanned leave when their employee has a family emergency, but few expect this absence to go on for weeks or even months. The COVID-19 pandemic with its ever-changing workplace accomodations showed us that employees can be out of work for extended periods of time for many different reasons, but even the most patient of employers will eventually have to refill vacated positions. Whether you write contracts, manage schedules, teach in a classroom or empty trashcans, your job is important and when you aren’t there someone else has to backfill your responsibilities or workflow stops and our economy suffers. Imagine if, because you had to stop working to help out your aging mom or dad, your company failed and hundreds, maybe thousands of people were laid off…the cascading effect is remarkable! 

Even if you only work for fun, or because you find meaning in what you do, it might be difficult to step away from something you love doing in order to become a family caregiver. Many people find their identity in the work they do, and there’s nothing wrong with this as long as you keep your job in perspective. Work should never come before God, and never come before family, spouse, and relationships. At best it should probably be 4th or 5th in your priorities. But if you find your identity in your work, you might lose yourself if you step away to become a full-time caregiver. Your new role gets little appreciation or recognition. There is probably nobody around to tell you what a great job you did changing that bed, or what an amazing meal you cooked. You won’t get awards for making sure your dad took all of his pills last week, and your mom won’t bonus you for helping her get to the bathroom before she had an accident. It is a largely thankless job you are choosing over one that really felt great every single day, but with the right motivation you can find that endorphin rush in caregiving as well.

In either of these scenarios you will have better success if you start planning for possibilities before you even need to worry about it. Nobody has a crystal ball that will show us the future of care needs, but with keen observation and wisdom born of age we can come closer to seeing the writing on the wall and prepare ourselves to be able to meet the challenge when needs arise. Whatever your work situation might be, if you plan for change before you transition to being a family caregiver the results will be beneficial for you, your workplace, and your aging loved ones. Talk to your employer, or your direct supervisor, as situations change with your parents and you begin to see warning signs of care needs ahead. Scope out resources local to your aging family members and start some conversations to get initial details nailed down early. One of the biggest mistakes Betsy and I see families make is delaying their groundwork in meeting possible helpers early on, well before care is needed. If you go ahead and meet local care resources (hospice, home health, home care, retirement communities, and rehab options) beforehand, the choice will be easier when you need help. Also, outside resources can be the difference between giving up your job and flourishing in it. 

With the right preparation, you can look like a rockstar whether you are building your career, being a full-time caregiver, or becoming a hybrid of both.

Betsy and I hope you will join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how to balance caregiving with your career.

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