06/05/2015 05:12 EDT | Updated 06/05/2016 05:59 EDT

How to Be a Caregiver Without Losing Your Career

Terry Vine via Getty Images

If you are currently transitioning from a full-time career to a full-time career and caregiving, you know how challenging it can be. Finding the right balance can seem near impossible, which leads to overwhelming levels of stress and concern. Family is priority but what about your career?

The number of unpaid caregivers in Canada continues to rise, as more and more family members require care. As a caregiver, you know that your duties are a full-time role in itself. Although caregiving is time-consuming and mentally draining, more than 70 per cent of American caregivers also have another job.

It's inevitable that one of these roles will be spread thin. If not, you will be spreading yourself thin, increasing your risk of burnout. If you are currently working a job while caregiving, you're not alone. There are strategies you can take to improve your current workload, while aiding your overall health.

Finding the Right Balance Between Your Career and Caregiving

As mentioned, a family member in need is always going to be priority in terms of your time and resources. We want the people close to us well, which is why we're willing to do whatever it takes to see them comfortable and stable. With that being said, completely leaving your career could significantly hinder various aspects of your life.

The most obvious area is finances. Not only will your income significantly decrease, but you will significantly impact your retirement. Having to leave your career at the age of 50 can have dramatic effects on your own personal future and well-being.

The most successful transitions are experienced when caregivers work within a career that is highly flexible. For those who own their own business, freelance, or any other position which offer a flexible schedule, can most certainly adjust more easily. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone.

For those who are struggling, what do you do? Before you make any major decisions, it's important to weigh your options carefully. Seek opportunities that offer the greatest levels of support and flexibility. In a perfect world you could balance both, but as many are finding out, one role's duties are not always met.

Tips to Maintain a Career and Your Caregiving Responsibilities

The choices you make now, can drastically influence your future. You CAN integrate both roles, you just need to plan effectively. Here are some tips so that you can properly care for your loved one, while maintaining an ideal income.

Understand What You Can Expect

Each and every situation is unique, so you need to understand what your personal circumstance will require of you. Preparation is key, as it will help you avoid chaos and potential burnout. Begin by educating yourself on your loved one's condition.

If they have early onset Alzheimer's, understand what that means and how the disease will progress. This increased knowledge will help you create a more thorough plan. What will be required of you short-term? What about long-term? Based on these requirements, you can then plan for career opportunities.

Proper scheduling will also make a substantial difference. What is your current schedule like? Planning ahead can make all the difference. There will of course be unexpected meetings or doctor's appointments but there will always be tasks in which you can plan in advance.

Don't Isolate Yourself

You would be amazed how support can positively impact your personal and professional life. Personal support tends to be easier to come by, as family and friends tend to have your best interests in mind. If you're feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a loved one.

Perhaps they could help you with some of your ongoing tasks. However, their emotional support is sometimes all you need. When it comes to professional support, sit down with your boss sooner than later. Explain your situation, so that your employer is fully aware of your current situation.

Focus on the positives, so that your employer knows you're still serious about your position. Try to work out new arrangements, discussing ways that you can accommodate work. Perhaps you need to take your mom to a dialysis appointment twice a week. If there's wifi on site, arrange for work you can do outside of the office during those dialysis hours.

Put yourself out there in terms of professional support. If your employer is not very responsive, then you may need to think of new opportunities and options. Either you explore caregiving options such as in-home care or adult daycare; or you explore new employment opportunities which allow you to focus on caregiving.

Each situation is unique, so you need to do what's best for you and your family. Stay organized and do not forget to take time for yourself. If you need further support, here are some great tips from the Canadian Caregiver Coalition.


13 Resources For Caregivers