Returning to work is a challenge for caregivers

In Spanish | Despite all that has been said about the pandemic, we should talk more about its impact on caregivers – especially caregivers who are now returning to work.

Millions of people fall into this group. Seven out of 10 American workers provide some form of care, often at their own expense. And now, more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, they face new challenges as they spend more and more time in the office.

While many employers have adopted work-from-home arrangements, their rules and expectations vary. It’s no surprise that an AARP study found that 75 percent of working caregivers worry about management everything their responsibilities when they return to the office.

It can be very, very difficult to juggle caregiving duties and gainful employment, and we should be doing more as a society to help. It is essential that we strengthen the care economy, including local services that support hard-working family carers, whose numbers are only expected to increase in the years to come.

At the same time, it makes sense for caregivers to do what they can to try to manage the pressures they face. If you belong to this group, here are some ideas to help you relieve stress:

  • Speak to your manager and find out about the benefits that may be available to you. Do not hesitate to ask. According to AARP research, flexible work hours, approved telecommuting, and reduced work travel are among workplace policies that have become more common since COVID-19 began reshaping the workplace. .
  • Use resources that can help you. Caregiving issues can take up valuable time – time that a working caregiver doesn’t have to waste. But helpful resources may be available if you know where to look. Clicking on aarp.org/caregiving.
  • Know your skills and the value they bring to the job. The helping role requires a range of “soft skills”, including problem solving, communication, emotional intelligence, creativity, project and team management, and the ability to take initiative. Thoughtful employers value these skills and don’t want to lose employees who possess them.

The tension between family care and paid work didn’t start with COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, 6 in 10 caregivers struggled with a time crunch that forced them to come into the office late, leave early, or take time off. One in 10 people had to quit their job completely.

When the pandemic hit, time constraints only got worse. Caregivers filled the void of disrupted outreach services and took the place of paid helpers who were no longer available. Eight in 10 active family caregivers said their stress levels had increased during the pandemic, according to an AARP survey from July 2021.

I know it’s not easy, but it’s essential for working caregivers to maintain a work-life balance for their own health. Caregivers cannot provide the best for their loved ones if they themselves are compromised. You can find out if your workplace offers a support group for caregivers – or consider starting one. Learn about resources and supports in your local community. Digital tools can also provide solutions for organizing and finding support, such as when a caregiver needs to coordinate meals and help from friends and family. AARP has a recently updated practice list available to browse.

More than 4 in 10 caregivers who worked from home at least part-time said they would consider looking for a new job if their employer took that option away, according to AARP’s 2021 survey. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But if you’re a beleaguered family caregiver, know that you may have other choices in today’s hot job market. Just go to aarp.org/jobs to learn more about conducting a job search. Look at the offers and remember: caregiving requires real skills that you can mention in a job interview. Consider your experience an asset.

That said, there’s no getting around the problem – working outside the home and caring for a loved one can be disparate endeavors without employers or supportive environments. Returning to an in-person job after months away can make it even more difficult to maintain balance. Yet both family care and maintaining your job are critically important.

Dedicated people who do both should have as much support as possible. No one should be forced to choose one over the other.

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