Is there a stigma around family caregivers of older adults? Drew Holzapfel from ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time) points out that senior caregiving issues often are not accepted like child-care issues and might even be stigmatized.
In a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, 26 percent of North American family caregivers of older adults report they felt a workplace stigma associated with elder caregiving.
These 10 ways to feel more empowered could serve to give family caregivers hope for better balance and health:
1. Be realistic. You can have the best intentions for trying to do it all. Take time to understand how much you can do to take care of your loved one, do well at your job and stay healthy. It’s a balancing act and it begins with being realistic.
2. Honesty is the best policy. Be honest with yourself and your employer about what you need. If you’re worried that honesty will jeopardize your job, go into the meeting with your manager armed with a plan for ways you can get your work done and still meet your loved one’s needs. In the following weeks we will begin to discuss conversation starters: How to talk to your employer about your caregiver support needs
3. Think creatively. By thinking outside the box, you might offer solutions for your situation that will help you, your employer and others facing their own family caregiving challenges. It’s important to try to make solutions work for you and your employer. For instance, is there another co-worker needing time off to go to appointments with a family member? Can you suggest to your manager that you cover for each other? Working at home or tele-commuting might be options. Or perhaps you can make up work after hours or on weekends. If feasible, suggest cross-training with other employees. Whatever plan you suggest, remember not to risk jeopardizing your own health by stretching yourself too thin. Suggest a trial so that you and your employer can ensure that it is working.
4. Get plenty of rest. Getting six to eight hours of sleep as a family caregiver could be challenging if you’re providing hands-on care for an older adult or facing other stresses. But getting enough rest could help you feel more empowered at work. Being well-rested you can get more done and are increasingly confident in handling daily challenges. Life always looks brighter after a good night’s sleep so think about ways you can enhance the quality of your sleep life.
5. Take one day at a time. It can be so easy to become overwhelmed as a family caregiver. Face the challenges of the day, but try not to look too far ahead. Caring for an older adult is an unpredictable job and one that often calls for a measured approach.
6. Arrange for help including respite care. Sometimes a little help goes a long way. Check with your employer about any back-up emergency care services your company might offer through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Some do. Think about ways others could help you. If you have family nearby, they may be able to help. Even if you don’t, a long-distance caregiver could assist with certain tasks, such as finances and scheduling. Check with our local area Agency on Aging for community resources, or contact my office at 586-1516 to learn how professional caregiving could help you.
7. Educate your employer. Depending on where you work, your employer may not understand the kinds of issues you are facing. For example, if your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, your manager and co-workers may not understand the demands these conditions placed on you as a caregiver. Do what you can to explain the kinds of challenges you are facing. Look to the Alzheimer’s Association( they can be reached at 707- 573.1210) and HelpforAlzheimer’sFamilies.com for information you can share.
8. Look for ways to give back. If your employer offers flexibility and help, think about ways to pay it forward with your manager and co-workers. That will help build morale and show your boss you’re a team player. If you’re able to do something extra, step up to the plate! Your co-workers may be more willing to help you out when needed in return.
9. Be organized. Maybe you’re not an organized person by nature. But honing your organizational skills could go a long way toward both staying on top of your job and easing your anxiety. Find an online calendar or print calendar to help you manage both your work and your home to-do lists and appointments.
10. Find support. Find out what assistance your employer may offer through your company’s EAP (Employer Assistance Program). Join a support group in your area. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to learn what’s available in your area that could help. Another great local resource is Legacy Concierge Services; they can be reached at 707-732-4527. Maybe groups are not your thing. There are still ways you can expand your network. Look to your faith community or friends for emotional support. Connecting with others going through the same circumstances could be meaningful. Make time for coffee or a movie, or join friends in an exercise class at your local YMCA. Take time to care for yourself!
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.