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How To Balance Work Responsibilities with Caregiving

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Being a caregiver can be physically and emotionally taxing. Throw working a part-time job or full-time into the equation, and your plate can become overwhelmingly full. 

Taking care of a loved one can feel like a full-time job. As a result, it is important for family caregivers to think about how to best manage the various tasks in their lives.

Here is how you can learn to balance work responsibilities with your caregiving responsibilities while still maintaining a positive quality of life.

 

Understand Your Responsibilities

1. Draft A List Of Tasks 

The first step in this process is to sit down and draft a list of everything that you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis as a caregiver

The list may include mundane weekly tasks, such as mowing the lawn, changing your bed sheets, and taking the garbage to the curb.

However, it may also include important tasks such as attending school events for your children and completing various work projects that require a bit more attention.

2. Find A System That Works For You 

For some people, writing tasks on an actual calendar may be helpful. Other people may get satisfaction from a numbered list where they can physically scratch out tasks once they have completed them. 

Some people need to add a visual pop to their lists so that activities can stand out. You can do this by using different colored pens, and markers for highlighting some of the most important tasks.

Remember, technology can be useful. Setting reminders, creating to-do lists, and creating calendar events on your phone or tablet are all conducive to balancing work and caregiving duties.

Remember to do what’s best for your well-being and your mental health. Playing a caregiving role for a loved one can take a lot out of you, so this system shouldn’t put more work on your plate than is necessary.

Tip: Take your time making these lists so that you do not leave anything out. Try and pick a quiet time when you are unlikely to be distracted. If your house is too chaotic, perhaps you can schedule a lunch date with yourself where you can work on this list. 

 

3. Consider Which Tasks Are Most Important

Think critically about your list. Highlight the activities that will make the most amount of time. In addition, highlight the tasks that you find emotionally or physically draining.

Try asking yourself: 

    • Is there a pattern with any of these activities? 

    • Do certain tasks overlap in a certain area of my life? 

Also, think about what brings you joy. Some activities on your list are likely more pleasurable than others. 

    • Which of these activities bring happiness?

    • Is there any way to increase the time spent on joyful activities? 

 

Think About Your Short-, Medium-, & Long-term Career Goals 

Not every caregiver has the same career goals. Career goals may look different depending on if you're a working caregiver or not.

In addition, caring for a loved one or older adult who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or a particularly strenuous health condition can make it harder to consider your own career goals when there are a lot of caregiving responsibilities occupying your time.

Try writing down where you would like to be in your professional career one to five years down the line. 

4. Assess Whether You're On Track To Reaching Your Ambitious Career Goals. If Not, Why Not? 

For instance, do you need additional education to help you reach these goals? If so, do you have the time and money to pursue this additional training while fulfilling your caregiving responsibilities? Can you get the training and education you require in a more informal way?

Be creative as you look at ways to expand your skill set. 

    • For caregivers, it is possible that caregiving responsibilities can be getting in the way of achieving short-term or long-term career goals.

      • Try evaluating your current work-life balance. If your caregiving duties are getting in the way of achieving your career goals.

    • Consider whether it‘s possible to delegate caregiving responsibilities to other family members, family friends, or support services moving forward.

    • Depending on your circumstances, it may make more sense to start a care plan with other members of your family who can help take on some of the caregiving burdens off of your plate and perhaps provide you with some emotional support

    • In other cases, the first step in asking for help may be going to your supervisor or someone in your HR Department at work. Try letting the HR department know about your current caregiving duties at home. This could help alleviate some stress, and ultimately provide you with a better work-life balance moving forward.

 

Assess Which Steps Can Help You Balance Caregiving & Work Responsibilities 

 

5. Have An Honest & Transparent Conversation With Your Family Members

It can be tough managing senior care on your own. Share which caregiving responsibilities you find overwhelming with family members. Try brainstorming ways in which they can step up and help you with some of these tasks to help you provide the best elder care possible. 

Try designing a care plan together around each-others schedules. This care plan can highlight caregiving duties and activities that can be divided equally. Some caregiving duties that can be shared may include:

    • Taking your loved one to doctor‘s appointments.

    • Picking up prescribed medications, groceries, or any other helpful supplies.

    • Making meals and feeding your loved one.

    • Helping with toileting and bathing your loved one.

       

Discuss which days of the week they’d be available to take your older loved one for doctor’s appointments.

For example, If you are married, It may be helpful for both you and your partner to write down your daily and monthly task lists. Once these are written down, you should exchange them with each other and bounce off ideas of how to simplify this list.

By going through this list together, you may see that one person is bearing a disproportionate share of the physical or emotional labor around the house. If this is the case, work to balance caregiving responsibilities with monthly tasks so that you both do not burn out. 

Make sure to have these conversations when you are calm. Do not let emotions get in the way of having productive discussions that can ultimately benefit your well-being, mental health, and personal care. Often, this is easier said than done, since caregivers are often tired and when we are tired, we are often more emotional than usual. 

Tip: During the brainstorming process, recognize that not everyone has the same skills. Some people may be equipped to help you pick up more of the load in making dinners, for example. But, other people may be better suited to use their credit cards to go pick up a pizza. Therefore, work on accepting help in different forms. 

 

Be Transparent With Your Employer

  • Have a conversation with your supervisor or someone in the HR Department. Conversations with your employer can be even more emotionally challenging than conversations with family members
    • Tip: Think about who you trust and have a good relationship with within the organization and start your conversation with them. Having allies on your side makes the process easier. 

  • Be prepared for this meeting. Have talking points that highlight what work-life challenges you are experiencing and also have some actionable solutions to offer. 

    • A great way to start this conversation is to start it from a place of strength. 

      • First, highlight what you have been doing really well for your employer recently. After that, move into how you could be doing even more and better if you had certain types of assistance. Make this a win-win for both you and your employer.  

      • Be open and transparent and try to avoid being defensive or over-explaining why you feel the way that you do. Your feelings are valid, and you do not need to justify them. 

  • Brainstorm with your workplace what you can do to address some of the challenges you are experiencing. 

    • For example, would it be beneficial to shift to a flexible schedule instead of a more traditional 9 to 5 workday? 

    • Would it also be helpful to be allowed to work from home on certain days of the week? 

    • If you do work from home more, what pieces of technology could your company offer to make this process smoother? 

    • Could your supervisor shift your projects so that they have a longer deliverable deadline? For example, if your deadlines are set a month in advance, then you can plan around hiccups and challenges in your current caregiving schedule.

      • A flexible work schedule or abiding by a work-from-home schedule can be helpful.

      • However, keep in mind that it can definitely be a cultural shift for many since there isn‘t necessarily the same opportunity to interact with colleagues regularly. Therefore, it is important for you and your employer to brainstorm ways for you to maintain a connection to your work environment remotely.

 

Create An Action Plan 

Take your time and assess what is working and what could still use some tweaking. Coming up with an action plan is a great first step, but it is only a first step to balancing work with your caregiving duties. Additional work may be done to make this work.

  1. Set up checkpoints and assess what is and isn’t working. Make sure that your checkpoints are not set too far out and that they are reasonable.

  2. Establish checkpoints, for example, at both the three- and six-month marks. See if the changes that you have implemented have made your work-life balance better and have improved your well-being

    • Are you happier? 

    • Are you feeling less stressed? 

What should these checkpoints include? Here are some questions to consider: 

 

  • Ask your supervisor if you are still meeting or exceeding workplace expectations for someone in your role? 

  • Ask your supervisor at a six-month review, if you are up for a future promotion and what they think your future role in the company could be? 

  • Ask yourself, are you eating and sleeping better? Do you have fewer health issues?

  • Do you feel like you have the ability to make more time for personal care and self-improvement?

  • Is the health of the loved one that you are providing care for being affected? If so, how so?

  • Is it time to consider long-term care services, a nursing home, or a home health aide for your loved one?

  • Do you think respite care or daycare services for your loved one may improve your overall well-being?

  • Are you performing activities of daily living for yourself that generate feelings of joy and relaxation?

These checkpoints are not meant to be ultimate judges of success or failure. Instead, they are reminders to think about what is working and what could use more work. Remember that emotional stress can have a tangible impact on both your mental health and physical health. It can leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic. Unfortunately, it can also leave you susceptible to a wide range of illnesses.

As a caregiver, you need to ensure that you are looking out for your own well-being first in order to fulfill your caregiving responsibilities for your loved one moving forward.

Whether you’re providing home care for an aging parent, family friend, or close relative; speak with a health care provider to receive recommendations on how to manage any stress or feelings of caregiver burnout that may arise.

A health care provider may also be able to provide referrals to support groups or mental health professionals who regularly meet with caregivers such as yourself.

Jessica Thomas

A Public Health Professional who focuses on aging care, specifically falls reduction, preventing delirium, and addressing barriers in the healthcare system.

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