As our aging population grows, the number of working caregivers does as well. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are 10 million caregivers for those affected by this disease, and most of these caregivers are in the workforce, and this is for Alzheimer’s only! Many times during the workday, a caregiving employee may need to drop everything to deal with a loved one’s health crisis. A friend of mine has gotten 3 calls in the last month from the emergency room regarding her mother, each time she was at work and had to leave to address the emergency. Luckily she has a flexible job. We have talked about some things she can do to be more pro-active with her employer.
As an employer, the following are some things you can share with your employees;
1. Talk to your employer about the situation, familiarize yourself with company leave policies and state/federal laws for family leave. If appropriate also discuss with co-workers as oftentimes, your workload may fall to them in your absence.
2. Since you cannot predict a crisis, make sure that you are up-to-date on your assignments, maybe work longer hours in anticipation of leaving suddenly, and also communicate with your co-workers anything that will involve them.
3. Have medical and contact information at the ready. This will allow for smooth admissions and access to services.
4. Set boundaries! Know yours! Oftentimes, caregivers will take on more than they can handle. Overdoing it can leave caregivers feeling overwhelmed and quite honestly, not doing everything well.
5. Have backup plans- while some elderly parents may deteriorate quickly or require acute care due to a sudden serious illness or fall, others slwly decline and may need caregiving for a longer time. If so, it would be a good idea to have respite care, other family members or family friends who can share the work and information on nursing homes or other facilities if you can no longer do it on your own.
6. Take care of yourself- if you don’t you won’t be good to anyone. Be sure to balance your work and personal responsibilities. Take time to rest, exercise, eat well and do some enjoyable activities.
7. Seek profesional assistance if needed- sometimes the stress of caregiving, work and other family responsibilities can be too much. If you find yourself being irritable, depressed or not doing as well as you should, contact a professional counselor or the EAP for confidential assistance.
In addition to the above tips, the employee assistance program can be an invaluable help to your employees. The EAP can provide the needed emotional support, and assist with resources and referrals. If you don’t have it already, consider adding the Worklife Program to your EAP services. The additional program provides a well of information, resources, and referrals for all aspects of caregiving and dealing with ill or aging family members.
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