"There are only four kinds of people in this world …

Those who have been caregivers
Those who currently are caregivers
Those who will be caregivers
Those who will need caregivers.”  

-Rosalynn Carter, 1997

Caregivers come in many forms and have many different circumstances. Those caregivers who also have an outside job will often find themselves torn between their work responsibilities and those of caring for their older adult. This is true whether the caregiving is in the senior’s home, in the caregiver’s home, in a facility, or even long-distance. In the 1980s American businesses adapted their human resource policies to accommodate the needs of workers with young children. Now many of those same workers face a new responsibility: providing care for an older parent, relative, or friend.

For a variety of reasons you will want to notify the human resource department at your place of employment of your situation. If your performance is not up to previous levels because of time spent with caregiving, it is better for your employer to know this ahead of time than to assume that you just don’t care about your job. The HR professional may also know of assistance that the employer can provide or may have a list of resources.

Begin by being honest—you want to be a good employee and a good caregiver. Ask if your employer has any eldercare programs in place. If not, help the manager understand what is required of you as a caregiver and be prepared to MAKE A CREATIVE PROPOSAL FOR HOW YOU CAN FULFILL YOUR ROLES AS CAREGIVER AND AS GOOD EMPLOYEE.

Some solutions are:

  • Flexible hours
  • working from home
  • Cafeteria-style benefits that allow you to choose adult day services, etc. instead of some other benefits (such as child care) that you do not need
  • Talking to others at the job site with similar caregiver issues
  • Learning about resources that can help balance job and caregiving

Some employers may not have faced this issue with an employee before, so they will need to be educated about the effects of caregiving on employees. This is particularly true of younger managers who have not yet faced the issue in their own families. Some employers assume that Medicare pays for every service and do not understand the work interruptions or absenteeism for doctors’ visits or other crises.

Your caregiving role may mean that you make difficult decisions regarding advancement, travel, hours, etc. The key is to balance your personal needs, your family’s needs, the older adult's needs, and your employment responsibilities.