Discussing Caregiving with Your Boss

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It's never easy being a caregiver. But when you ad the title "full-time employee" to your duties, it can be overwhelming. How do you balance the needs of your loved one and make sure there is a regular paycheck to help you finance that care?

Consider these statistics from AARP's 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. Report:

  • 60 percent of caregivers were employed in 2014 while also providing care for a loved one.
  • 56 percent of employed caregivers (non self-employed) reported that their supervisor at work is aware of their caregiving responsibility.
  • 61 percent of caregivers report having experienced at least one impact or change to their employment situation as a result of caregiving, such as cutting back on their working hours, taking a leave of absence, turning down a promotion, retiring early, losing benefits, or receiving a warning about performance or attendance.

Clearly, when it comes to caregiving, some sacrifices must be made.

Taking care of a loved one is deeply personal, so should you tell your boss what you're going through? Or keep him or her on a need-to-know basis?

"From my experience, the answer is a little of both," says Stacy M. Brooks, who worked as a senior marketing manager for a global IT services company. She spent six months caring for her mother.

"Let your boss know the situation, but then step back and take cues from their response and actions," Brooks suggests. "For example, if they say, ‘Take whatever time you need,' then you'll know they support the decisions that you as the caretaker have to make. If they are not as understanding, then you know that you must try your best to juggle work and caregiving."

For Brooks, who was able to work virtually, juggling work and caregiving meant always having her computer turned on. She would complete her work and answer emails every chance she could, in between doctors appointment or while she was at her mother's hospital bedside.

Brooks admits that at times she was underproductive in her job simply because there weren't enough hours in the day to complete her work tasks and care for her mom in her final days. And she says she paid the price with reprimands from her boss.

That's one of the reasons Charity Kuahiwinui, an independent human resources consultant, suggests employees be upfront about caregiving. "Your caregiving is going to come out in work performance, and it usually is in a negative way," she states. By alerting your boss or supervisor, you can be proactive in tackling the challenges and create a partnership with your employer, instead of viewing them as an adversary.

The amount of stress employees face - on the job and as caregivers - is another reason to let your boss know what's going on in your personal life.

"When a caregivers is open with the supervisor it provides an opportunity to work with the employee," says Jan Riddle, PHR, the human resources manager for Oxford HealthCare. "Supervisors might have some resources for the employee, and it creates camaraderie and support."

Where Riddle is employed, the company engages with caregiving employees whenever possible to offer them a flexible schedule so that they can do their best while managing both roles.

"We seek out employees that we know are in the caregiving mode," she adds. "Sometimes it's just to talk and listen to what they're going through. You need to encourage them as a caregiver and employee to get enough sleep and connect with support groups."

Brooks can attest that the stress of working and caregiving was immense. She found support through weekly sessions with a therapist. Support groups are another great resource. Unfortunately, the poor working relationship Brooks shared with her boss led her to seek employment elsewhere. Now, she says, she has found a group of co-workers and supervisors who support her in grieving the loss of her mother and ask how they can be of assistance.

Deciding whether to share your caregiving journey with your boss is an individual decision. Only you know the kind of relationship you have with your employer. But as Kuahiwinui, points out, it is usually in an employers' best interest to work with caregivers, since it can cost a business 30% to 80% of an employee's annual salary to replace them.

"People are afraid of (employers and HR managers)," says Kuahiwinui. "But they're there to help."

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15 Comments

Glad, you asked if there any elderly friendly bosses. From a recent Washington-Post article entitled "Aging population prompts more employers to offer elder-care benefits to workers".....

"Some, including pioneers such as Fannie Mae in the Washington DC area, are offering not only flexibility, but also benefits such as emergency backup adult care, geriatric assessments, social workers to assist with referrals for adult day-care programs, and help with legal, financial and emotional counseling. For caregivers whose parents live far away, some companies offer privacy and time for workers to Skype into parents’ appointments with doctors."

"The share of employers providing information about elder-care services to their employees has increased from 31 percent in 2008 to 43 percent in 2014, according to the 2014 Families and Work Institute’s National Study of Employers. Three-fourths of employers say they offer time off for elder care without penalizing workers"
Glad, yes I was already an employee, but when my job was eliminated I was out of work for awhile, and here I was in my 60's but not old enough for Social Security/Medicare. I had that time gap on my resume.

I didn't know what to do as my career was specialized. I needed to find an employer that was flexible so I could run home in case my parents needed me. How I hated to have been placed in that position by my parents. So unfair as my parents never needed to care for their own parents, thus they had no clue how their life was changing mine.

There are ways to fill that "gap" in your resume to make it appear like a job, even though it probably was a "volunteer position" instead of a paid position. Google "caregiving gap on resume" to get some ideas. Found quite a few good websites. Wishing you the best of luck.
thank you for this article as i am currently seeking a paying job since graduating medical transcription school and this info is helpful