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Caregiving and Your Job
As life expectancies increase, more people are finding themselves in the unfamiliar role of caregiver to a parent, spouse or another loved one. Since the average caregiver is 48 years old, most are in the midst of their own careers.
The statistics are startling. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, about 29 percent of adults – or 65.7 million – Americans provide care to someone who is ill or disabled. Of these, 43.5 million care for an adult aged 50 or older. Unpaid caregivers represent the largest component of long-term care in the country. About two-thirds of the caregivers are women, though more men are joining their ranks.
If you are among this legion of caregivers, you know how challenging it can be – physically and emotionally. Depending on the level of care you need to provide, one of your biggest challenges can be balancing the needs of caregiving and your paying job.
You could quit your job, of course, but that is not an option for most people. You might need the income to pay your expenses, or you might be concerned about derailing a career you have worked hard to build. You might simply love your job and the people you work with. If you are trying to juggle your job with providing needed care for a person or people you love, AARP has some suggestions that might make it at least a little easier:
Talk to your boss. Your caregiving responsibilities no doubt will have an impact on your work life; at the least, you are likely to be more tired and/or distracted than usual. So don’t leave your employer wondering what’s wrong. Be honest about your situation. Ensure your boss that you value your job, and then have a frank talk about what your caregiving role might entail and what your options might be for meeting those demands while still meeting the demands of your job.
See if you can adjust your schedule. Could you consolidate your caregiving into a specific time, such as morning, and then work later in the afternoon? If your schedule is not so predictable, could you move to flexible work hours to accommodate your caregiving issues?
See if you can telecommute. Determine what of your tasks you could do from afar. Obviously, some jobs are more suitable to telecommuting than others, but working remotely could allow you to be physically present with your loved one while still getting your work done.
Consider a leave. If your caregiving responsibilities are too overwhelming, especially if they are likely to last for a relatively short time, it might work best if you simply take a leave. See what your company policy is for taking time off for caregiving.
See if you can be paid as a caregiver. If you must take an extended leave or even quit your job, consider whether you could be paid as a caregiver. It might be possible, for example, for your loved one to tap sources such as long-term care insurance, Medicaid or veterans’ benefits to provide payment; they also might be able to claim payments to you as a medical expense on their income taxes. If you take this route, draw up a contract detailing your responsibilities, your benefits and your salary, and have both you and your loved one sign it. And be sure to pay all required taxes on this income.