Full Time Work / Full Time Caregiving

September 9, 2016

 

Most people who are not caregivers can look forward to spending free time after work or on weekends enjoying what they like to do. Vacation time is also time to recharge and then head back to your job.  Not so with the caregiver. Since caregiving is certainly considered work, and you go to a job, essentially you are working two, if not three full time jobs.

Consider these statistics:

  • More than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability (AARP, 2008).
  • An estimated 21% of households in the United States are impacted by caregiving responsibilities (NAC, 2004).
  • Unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 90% of the long-term care (IOM, 2008).
  • The majority (83%) are family caregivers—unpaid persons such as family members, friends, and neighbors of all ages who are providing care for a relative (FCA, 2005)
  • The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman with some college experience and provides more than 20 hours of care each week to her mother (NAC, 2004).
  • The out-of-pocket costs for caregivers who are caring for someone who was age 50 or older averaged $5,531 in 2007. About 37% of caregivers for someone age 50 and older reduced their work hours or quit their job in 2007 (AARP, 2008).
  • Caregivers report having difficulty finding time for one's self (35%), managing emotional and physical stress (29%), and balancing work and family responsibilities (29%) (NAC, 2004).
  • About 73% of surveyed caregivers said praying helps them cope with caregiving stress, 61% said that they talk with or seek advice from friends or relatives, and 44% read about caregiving in books or other materials (NAC, 2004).
  • About 30% said they need help keeping the person they care for safe and 27% would like to find easy activities to do with the person they care for (NAC, 2004).
  • Half (53%) of caregivers who said their health had gotten worse due to caregiving also said the decline in their health has affected their ability to provide care (NAC, 2006).
  • Caregivers said they do not go to the doctor because they put their family's needs first (67% said that is a major reason), or they put the care recipient's needs over their own (57%). More than half (51%) said they do not have time to take care of themselves and almost half (49%) said they are too tired to do so (NAC, 2004).


 

Caregiving while working full-time:  My personal experience

When my wife had a stroke, I missed three weeks of work and lived in a motel Canada while she was in an ICU there.  I was more than a little concerned about my job as I just started with the company 4 months before.  My employer as sympathetic to my plight and I got right back to work as soon as her condition stabilized and we got back home to Western NY.  Because she was hospitalized for the next 5 months, my work life went relatively undisturbed other than the exhaustion of going to the hospital every morning, during lunch and after work.

I decided upon discharge to return my wife to our home where I would take care of her and manage her care.  After about a year, I got help for her in the home through the Medicaid TBI waiver.  Throughout all of this I continued to work as I absolutely had to support the family.

Like many of you I missed a lot of work. Not days per se, but hours, an hour here, an hour there, a crisis that compelled me to leave work, phone calls and general worry and distraction.

I remember one time where I had to leave because she was having a seizure, after it was over, I headed back to work only to get a call while driving back that she had another one. So I turned around and went back.

I consider myself an extremely fortunate that I was able to keep my job after all of the time off, not to mention my lack of focus on the job.

So, I commend all of my fellow caregivers for hanging in there and thank their employers for understanding and consideration!


Just because you are at work doesn't mean that you stop being a caregiver. There is no such thing as "Don't bother me while I'm at work".

Typical issues that can come up while at work include but are not limited to:

  • Safety issues (falls, burns, bruises, seizures, etc.)
  • Staffing issues (No shows, early exit, complaints, questions, etc.)
  • Medication Issues (Questions, frequency, time of administration, etc.)
  • Routine calls that a caregiver makes to check status of loved ones.

There may be consequences for dealing with these issues such as:

  • "Presenteeism" Going to work either mentally or physically unable to function, you are technically present but mentally and perhaps physically "absent".
  • Distraction and loss of concentration at the job (safety, injury and performance reduction).
  • Loss of vacation time or other time off benefits because of having to use vacation time to perform caregiving.
  • A feeling of income insecurity because of phone time and time off.
  • The very real threat of being disciplined or terminated because of caregiver responsibility.
  • Productivity reduction due to stress.
  • Irritability and workplace conflicts.



Fortunately, many employers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the demands of caregiving. As such, some companies (usually large national / international) offer programs (EAP's) that can help caregivers find things like:

  • Legal Services
  • Support Groups
  • Child Care
  • Counseling
  • Respite
  • Caregiver Leave of Absence
  • Flexible work hours
  • Work from remote locations

 

Consider these Action Plans:

  • Learn company policies by reviewing the employee handbook and or speaking to your supervisor or HR.
  • Understand that you are entitled to a twelve week per year "Family Medical Leave of Absence" (FMLA) but also understand that an employer does not have to pay you while on FMLA, but they must "keep your job" and provide the same benefits as if you were at work (health insurance).
  • Be as upfront an honest with your supervisor and HR of your circumstances as a caregiver. This will help explain your behavior as a caregiver while at work.
  • Ask if you can work under a "Flex Time" schedule built around appointments and/or other caregiver needs.
  • Try to make calls and internet exploration on your lunch hour or before or after work.
  • Ask co workers for help, understanding and support

 

Additional Action that you can take to "buffer" the situation:

  • Get Family and professional staff in place and organized before a crisis occurs
  • Have a solid back up plan in the event that you are unavailable due to work duties (after hour meeting, overtime, unexpectedly called out of town)
  • Ensure safety of your loved one by obtaining a Medical Alert System and instruct your loved one and other support how to use it
  • Try to get friends, neighbors and others to help you without actually being with you loved one. They could perform duties like making appointments, shopping, phone calls, etc.

 



As shown in the statistics at the beginning of this article, the staggering costs and responsibilities that family caregivers are shouldered with. While caregiving can be very gratifying, some of the joys of caregiving can be diminished because of work stress that can compound the already complex job of providing care to a loved one.

Following the tips presented hear can help balance caregiving for those of us who are employed. The most important things to remember are:


  • Be honest and open with your employer
  • Don't hesitate to ask for consideration from your employer to help accommodate your situation.
 
 



Thank you for reading!


-Ron Pokorski

 



Recommended reading

"Mainstay", Maggie Strong

"Dirty Details" Marion Deutsche Cohen

"Surviving your spouse's chronic illness" Chris McGonigle

"Family Caregivers Manual" David Levy

 

Websites

AARP.org "Balancing Work and Caregiving"

Lifeline.philips.com

 

Support Groups

Wellspouse Association www.wellspous.org

OLV Stroke Support Group - First Saturday of each month, 10:00 AM OLV Community Room 55 Melrose Ave, Lackawanna, NY. Contact Nancy Ogorek at (716)-558-5160

 

References

AARP, 2008: Houser, A., et al., AARP Public Policy Institute, Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving, 2008 Update, 2008, 2015

**These statistics do not differentiate between employed or unemployed caregivers, so, you can only imagine these statistics if they were restricted only to those caregivers with full or part time jobs.