When a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic or long-term illness such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, the immediate assumption is that a family member will become their primary caregiver. While this assumption is not 100% incorrect, this puts tremendous pressure on family members to step-up to the plate and fulfil caregiving duties, while maintaining the balance of their everyday lives – most especially, within their careers.
Be open and honest
Becoming a primary caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can put you in a precarious situation when it comes to employment. However, experts advise that the best measure for a full-time caregiver to take is to disclose their new responsibilities and expectations to their employer.
Being 100% honest with an employer means pointing out that your two roles may overlap from time-to-time and that you may need to test the waters to see how they feel about this.
One of your best courses of action as a full-time employee and now a caregiver is to define your responsibilities as a caregiver and explain that there will be instances where you may require time away from work. This way, your employer knows where you stand and will not question your absenteeism.
In most cases, most employers should be completely empathetic and supportive of your situation. However, it’s important to remember that employers also have their own set of obligations to uphold for the sake of other employees and company stakeholders. Essentially, business is still business.
So when is it time to consider roping in the help of other family members if you feel your career and its trajectory is being jeopardised?
1. Limited involvement in workplace activities
When your involvement in workplace activities begins to take a back seat over your caregiving responsibilities, it may be time to look for help from other family members or friends for a few hours a week. These activities may include participation in meaningful fundraisers or enjoying time with other employees at birthday or anniversary events.
2. Turning down a promotion
It really doesn’t happen all that often that an employee would turn down an opportunity of promotion and salary increase. If this has happened or is something you’re considering as a caregiver, it may be time to consider finding additional support if your ambition is to move forward in your career.
3. Turning down a relocation opportunity
Moving away from a loved one who has fallen ill and accepting an amazing new career opportunity may seem like a cruel and selfish thing to do. But why should it be? If your career is important to you and your family members know that and support you, then should it not be time for another sibling or family member to step-up and offer themselves as a primary caregiver? Yes, it may seem like a lot to ask, but ultimately, family members should band together in times of need.
If additional support from family members is just not an option, an assisted living community may also be your answer.
4. Feeling completely disconnected from your career
If you used to wake up with enthusiasm and motivation each day about your job, but that has become secondary now, it may be time to re-look your caregiving responsibilities. Perhaps you have a little too much on your plate and this is making you feel overwhelmed and stressed. Try and spread out caregiving tasks to willing family members so you can re-focus on other things which are also important to you.
Taking on the role of primary caregiver is a huge task, whether you work full-time and have a career or not. You will need to strike a balance between the two if both are just as important as the other. This may be easier said than done, but becoming a full-time caregiver does not mean your life needs to be put on hold. Reach out for support when you need it – there’s nothing selfish about it!