The following is an excerpt from Amy D'Aprix's From Surviving to Thriving: Transforming Your Caregiving Journey.
ONE OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES OF CAREGIVING is that it is added to an already busy life. Before becoming caregivers, people may be juggling the roles of spouse/partner, parent, employee or employer, or member of a faith community or other community groups. Then they become caregivers and have to figure out how to add this new role into the mix of all of the other roles in their lives. And in each of these roles there are relationships with people who impact and are impacted by the very consuming role of caregiving. Thus the challenge is not just about balancing roles; it is about managing relationships.
This chapter on the fourth circle out from the center is a good reminder of just how far into our lives the impact of caregiving reaches. In this chapter you will find tips for juggling the many roles you play and tips for better managing the relationships you have in each of these roles. Just remember as you read these tips that even professional jugglers drop a ball sometimes. And when they do, they know that all they have to do is reach down, pick it back up, and begin juggling again. And soon they will get their rhythm back.
How Can I Balance Working and Caregiving?
If you are one of the many caregivers who holds down a full- or part-time job, you already know that balance is the magic word. Balancing the demands of your job, your own family, and your caregiving responsibilities takes real skill. Then, we add in your need to take care of yourself, and you may say-impossible!
Think of yourself as the bank account. You have to make deposits in order to have something to withdraw. So, self-care becomes critical if you want to effectively balance all the other aspects of your busy life.
Maybe you are lucky enough to work for a company that provides some support for caregivers. These employers know they will benefit the bottom line if they can help workers find ways to get the job done while still caring for loved ones who are ill. Even if your company does not have formal programs
to help you, here are some ideas that might help you balance work and caregiving.
- Consider talking to your supervisor about your caregiving situation. It is usually better that he or she understands if you need to come in late or take some time for medical appointments. This may be a difficult step to take. Perhaps you fear it will affect your job security or career prospects. If so, you might first consider checking your company's personnel manual or other human resources publications to learn and understand your company's policies. Having this information can boost your confidence when you talk with your supervisor. You may be surprised how supportive your supervisor and co-workers can be when they learn how you are supporting your loved one. Your company may also appreciate your honesty and your sense of responsibility toward your job and your loved one.
- Let your boss know that you are committed to getting your work done. Ask for some flexibility in your hours or offer to do the work outside of regular hours.
- Let your co-workers know that you appreciate the help they give you in balancing job and home. You could offer to take on an extra assignment for them when you do have the time.
- Make necessary calls for medical appointments or other caregiving business during your lunch or coffee break. Avoid interrupting your work.
- Find one activity every day that you do for yourself to relieve some of the stress. Take a short walk or a hot bath, call a friend and talk about other things besides caregiving.
- Remember to eat well, get enough sleep, and fit in some exercise. Keep that bank account full. ...
Plans A, B, and Even C
College graduates often hear the advice that success is being prepared with Plan B. In caregiving, we know that even Plan B may not be enough to ensure success. It quickly becomes obvious that we need to have plans and backup plans and backup, backup plans for the myriad situations that can occur as we care for our loved ones.
Plan A includes the normal assistance and supplies needed to care for your loved one. You are probably a very organized person, and you schedule your days as much as possible to make sure that medications and supplies are available.
Plan B prepares for situations that arise despite your careful planning. You need to be prepared to handle these with as little stress as possible. Here are some examples:
- Plan A: You've arranged for professional caregiving or nursing assistance for your loved one while you are away from home. Then, the professional caregiver you're counting on calls in sick. Now what?
- Plan B: Register with a home care agency so you will have a resource for backup care from a qualified professional.
- Plan C: Preregister with a second agency in case the first does not have a caregiver or nurse available for that shift.
- Plan A: Order medical supplies and prescription medicines before your loved one's supply runs out.
- Plan B: Unforeseeable circumstances can cause the medicine or supplies to be delayed. Have insurance approvals and doctor's authorizations on file, and never delay having prescriptions refilled or ordered.
- Plan C: Make sure you can get all necessary supplies and medications locally.
A common caregiver fear is: what would happen if I got sick?
- Plan A: Because your ability to provide care is impacted if you become ill, it is critical that you focus on your own health first. This includes eating right, getting adequate sleep, and having regular medical checkups. Regular medical care may seem particularly difficult since you spend so much time around doctors already.
- Plan B: When you do get too sick to care for your loved one, have at least one relative or friend, or an agency person, who can commit to be your backup.
- Plan C: Call for an extra backup from friends or professionals in case your first one cannot make it that day. Be ready to admit that the sub will not give care in the same manner you do. We all work differently, but it doesn't mean your loved one will not be well cared for. It may seem that having one caregiving plan is difficult enough, much less two or three. However, careful planning with backup plans can eliminate a great deal of the stress as unexpected situations present themselves.
I certainly thought I had all bases covered when Jack was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. He had to go through a rigorous course of chemotherapy for more than four months. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that when my daughter got caught in her own family crisis, I was pretty much left on my own to supply all home and transportation needs. My supervisor was sympathetic but obviously did not want me to be out every day for several hours.
So my organizational skills were put to the test. I lined up several friends who could commit to take Jack to and from the hospital. They each had the phone numbers of the others, so no one would feel too much pressure if something came up.
I contacted two agencies and registered for backup home care with both. I placed one as the primary and arranged for home coverage during each day when Jack got home from treatment.
I noticed that I began to feel calmer and less burdened. I don't know why I thought my daughter and I had to cover everything ourselves. I suppose I was in some kind of denial about Jack's needs and, therefore, how serious the cancer was. I think Jack is feeling more relaxed knowing I have help.
Now I see myself as proactive. I make sure all his medications are refilled a week before they run out. I have a list, right by the phone, of people I can call in the night if I need some help with Jack, as well as all emergency numbers if it is something more serious.
"Expect the unexpected" is a helpful motto when you are a caregiver. When you think you have covered all your bases, check again; you'll be glad you did.
Copyright © 2008 Amy S. D'Aprix