The costs of family caregiving are enough without losing any more income in the journey. One option that could help you provide your parent’s care while still providing financially, is working from home. While it’s not an option available to everyone, working from home is becoming increasingly common.
Nearly four million people in the U.S. now work from home and the numbers continue to grow each year. For anyone struggling to balance family and work responsibilities, having a flexible schedule can make a huge difference. Read more about how to work from home as a family caregiver.
Caregiving is a challenge and we have to acknowledge that although helpful, working from home isn’t the only solution to finding a work-life balance. Ruth Ullmann, Founder of My Elder Care Journey, learned how difficult caregiving and working from home could be when her mother’s health started to decline. She spent seven years successfully managing a consulting business from home while caring for her parents, but “the constant interruptions, emergency runs to the hospital and rehabilitation, numerous doctors visits even with the help of home care made it impossible to meet my commitments to my clients.”
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Many caregivers find that as their loved one’s needs grow over time, the ability to balance caregiving with other responsibilities becomes increasingly difficult. Part of the issue is having realistic expectations of what will happen and what you can manage. Ullmann admits:
“It never occurred to me that caring for aging parents would impact my business, health, income or savings in such a profound way. Nor did it occur to me that this journey would span 14 years.”
Not everyone will be able to keep the job they have now while being a family caregiver for a loved one, but there are steps you can take to increase your odds of being able to do both:
While the point of being home is that you can take care of your loved one yourself, you will find that having outside help for day-to-day needs makes putting the time you need toward work each day much easier. Hiring a home care aide, whether it’s for a couple of days a week or every day, means you can let someone else take care of the minor caregiving work, while you’re still nearby if something major happens that your parent needs you for.
If your parent has long-term care insurance, you can likely find home care agencies in your area that are covered. If not, your parent may qualify for some form of assistance to help cover the cost. Letting someone else take on some of the caregiving work will make a big difference to your ability to do professional work, so this is an important option to consider and take advantage of, if possible.
It’s true that your plan probably won’t match exactly what happens when you start working from home but it’s worth it to create a plan anyway. If you’re an employee, this will help with making a case to your supervisor for why you can be trusted to work from home. You want to demonstrate that you’ve thought things through and know how to make sure the main responsibilities of your job will be taken care of. If you’re self-employed, it will help you better organize your schedule and business responsibilities so that you can make sure everything gets covered.
Your plan should include considerations like how others can expect to be able to reach you, how to handle time-sensitive situations (you may need someone to serve as a backup for these) and how to manage collaborative work while outside of the office. Anything you can think of that will change because of being out of the office and working different hours of the day should be addressed here.
Turning a section of your house into a workspace will help you psychologically separate out your home and work life and will also help encourage those around you to do so. You need to set clear boundaries with your family members and any friends prone to stopping by about when it’s okay to disturb you while you’re working. Heading to your office space (ideally a space with its own door) will signal to them when those boundaries are in place.
If your parent only needs assistance in basic tasks like getting dressed in the morning or having meals prepared, you may not need to make much of a change in how much work you continue to take on at first. But if you try to continue spending 40 or more hours per week on work while taking care of a loved one with more serious problems who requires more of your energy and time, you’re heading toward burn out or failure.
Be prepared to scale back. That may mean talking to your boss about a move from 40 hours to 30 or hiring someone to take on some of the tasks you’re in charge of now. That’s not an easy to decision to make, but it’s better to plan for it and be prepared early on than it is to fail in your responsibilities and lose your job entirely because you’re trying to do too much.
This part is crucial. Luisa Brenton is a freelance writer that’s been working from home while caring for both her child and mother-in-law with dementia and she notes this as one of the main things that has made that possible.
“I have a husband, my daughter who is completely capable of putting away her toys [and] I have my friends and parents. I do ask them a lot. Believe me, people are happy to help,” she told me.
She spends a lot of her day taking care of her child and mother-in-law but can plan on times to do work when her friends come by to take over caregiving duties for a bit and when her husband comes home from work in the evenings.
This may be the most important tip of all on this list. If you’re going to successfully balance your job and being a family caregiver for a loved one, you have to have other people you can count on to do some of the work needed. Think about who you can depend on for different tasks at different times and get comfortable asking for help.
You’ll still be balancing a lot of work, but being a family caregiver and working from home can allow you to be in a better place financially when it comes time to think about your own retirement.
Are you a family caregiver who works from home? What other caregiving or working from home tips would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.