AARP Bulletin

Balancing Work and Caregiving

AARP's Amy Goyer, one of the 61 percent of caregivers age 50+ that also work, offers advice

Consider telecommuting

Some call it "remote work" or "telework," but telecommuting is an option that allows you to work from home or some other location, such as your loved ones' home or another office.

Some employers offer full-time telecommuting jobs. Others allow some telecommuting time every week, or short-term telecommuting during an emergency or acute caregiving time.

Caregivers often cite telecommuting as the most helpful flexible work option. It allows them to help the people they care for with personal care or transportation to doctor appointments and then get right to work wherever they are, rather than wasting time traveling to their work site or taking more time off.

Some companies will support telecommuting with computers and other equipment; others will require you to supply your own equipment.

If you're a long-distance caregiver and your company has a work site closer to your loved ones' location, you might also consider a permanent or temporary transfer.

Look into taking leave

Employers offer different options for taking time off. Be sure you understand your employer's policies. Do they offer time off specifically for caregiving?

Many caregivers devote their vacation time to caregiving. Some employers allow employees to use sick time for caring for sick family members; in fact, this is required or mandated in some states and jurisdictions.

Some companies provide paid or unpaid time off when an immediate family member dies. Find out more. Does the policy include your grandmother, aunt or uncle, partner or close friend? How much time will you be allowed? You may also have paid time off for personal use. Some companies allow employees to donate their unused vacation, sick or personal time to other employees who are experiencing a hardship and need paid time off.

If you need to take an extended period of time off work, your employer may offer several options. Most extended leave will be unpaid. Keep in mind that your job may be protected for a period of time but perhaps not indefinitely. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor or talk with your employer to find out if you are eligible for the Family, Medical and Leave Act, or military caregiving.

Have I missed opportunities and struggled with the unique challenges of being self-employed? Absolutely. Am I sometimes frustrated and overwhelmed? Yes.

But here's what sustains me: I know that my parents are more vulnerable than I am and that I'm doing the right thing. I made a conscious choice to care for them as they have cared for our family, so I've adapted my work and career goals.

People ask me how I do it; I wonder, how could I not do it? I wouldn't have it any other way. I succeed because I want to and because I believe so strongly in what I'm doing.

Editor's Note: As this story went to press, Amy Goyer's mother, Patricia, passed away. "I'm devastated at the loss of my beautiful mom," Goyer said. "It was an honor and a privilege to care for her as she cared for me."

Amy Goyer is a family and caregiving expert for AARP. This article is adapted from her ebook, Juggling Work and Caregiving.

Originally published November 2013

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