Keeping your boss happy can be challenging at the best of times. Add looking after Mom and Dad to your already busy calendar and you’ve got a recipe for disaster if you don’t look for simple shortcuts and ways to look after yourself.
By Caroline Tapp-McDougall
Whether you are a salaried or hourly employee, taking time off to escort a friend or family member to a doctor’s appointment, sitting around nervously waiting at the bedside in the hospital emergency room, or being responsible for ongoing caregiving arrangements usually means reduced workplace productivity and often has an impact on your weekly paycheques.
Consider the impact
With modern technology that gives some of us the opportunity to stay in touch remotely using our laptops and smartphones, we can be available, but trust me, it’s hard to be in two places at once and do both well. Depending on your line of work, your options, and the flexibility and patience level of your employer, time away caregiving uses up vacation time, can be termination-worthy if it happens too often, and at the very least can be disruptive to workflow and regular routines.
When my husband went into hospital to have what he prefers to call a “procedure,” our daughters came to the hospital to show their support, despite the fact that it was a workday. We’re all busy professionals, so when I looked up from my laptop, where I was busy editing a piece in time for deadline, the waiting room was full of people who were “connected.” I felt a little better realizing that it wasn’t just our Type-A family using technology to stay in touch with the outside world. Even Dad, the patient, was approving a quote for a client up to the last moment before they took him into the operating room. Welcome to caregiving in modern times.
“It’s not wise to be the oldest thing in your house.”
– Patsy Stone
If you are presently balancing eldercare and career responsibilities, fear not. Many employers are beginning to recognize the challenges of eldercare and the loss of productivity it can cause. Just as they launched child-care initiatives just a few short years ago, there are some attractive eldercare programs that have begun to pop up. Expect more. Take a leadership role in sniffing out new opportunities and pioneering programs that will help both you and your coworkers. Statistics show that one in five employees are facing the same thing you are.
Be creative, be open, be ready to flex, and you just may be able to work out a situation that’ll keep both you and your employer happy. Hint: Don’t hide your eldercare needs; there’s nothing worse than the office rumour mill for spreading the wrong story. Check into these options:
• Caregiver leave: Similar to maternity leave, a number of leading-edge companies already allow a six- to eight-week family or extended leave that can be used to provide short-term care for elderly family members. Based on recent public opinion research, the federal government has been discussing the possibility of programs to support a caregiver leave of absence.
• Flexible work arrangements: Think flex-time, a compressed workweek, a shorter workday, or job sharing. Sometimes, depending on the nature of your job, an employer may be willing to accept the option of working at home on occasion.
• Special compensation plans: Additional services may be available through your benefit programs, and there may be “items on the menu” that you have never noticed before.
Check them out and ask about employee assistance programs that are at your disposal. Family and personal days off are also great ways to cover time off that you need to care for Mom or Dad. Workplace programs You owe it to yourself to investigate workplace health promotion and prevention programs to reduce stress and provide access to caregiving resources. Some corporations are encouraging caregiver support groups and lunch and- learns. Many companies are even developing educational materials and providing copies of Solutions magazine to employees to help them to more easily understand options and make arrangements.
You owe it to yourself to investigate workplace health promotion and prevention programs to reduce stress and provide access to caregiving resources. Some corporations are encouraging caregiver support groups and lunch-and-learns. Many companies are even developing educational materials and providing copies of Caregiver Solutions magazine to employees to help them to more easily understand options and make arrangements.
Caroline Tapp-McDougall is the editor of a variety of health care magazines and the author of The Complete Guide for Family Caregivers. Call 416-421-7944 to order.