10 Simple Ideas Working Dementia Caregivers Wish They Embraced Sooner
By Jennifer L. Fitzpatrick, MSW, LCSW-C, CSP | Caregiving
If you are caregiving for a loved one who has dementia and still have a job, you are far from alone. Seventeen percent of full-time American workers are also caregivers.
Caregivers on double-duty are perpetually exhausted and frequently report feeling like they are not doing anything quite “right.” Managing both career and the needs of someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia can feel impossible, especially on days when there’s an unexpected late meeting at work or dad has eloped from his assisted living community. But working dementia caregivers can reduce their stress significantly by embracing just one of these ideas today:
1.) Acknowledge that it is normal to question whether or not you “should” be working as a caregiver, especially if you are a woman. For most of history, females stayed home with the kids and then took care of the sick and older loved ones in the family. But both genders who are working caregivers tend to second-guess whether or not they should retire early, go part-time or even leave the workforce completely. While it’s normal to have such thoughts, know that you can continue as a working caregiver if you surround yourself with enough support.
2.) Make sure your boss and team know that you are managing a caregiving situation. While they don’t need to know all the details, many of your colleagues will be more patient about adjustments to your work schedule if they know what you are experiencing. After all, most of us have gone through a caregiving experience or will at some point.
3.) Explore everything your human resources department has to offer. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) is a benefit most of us are entitled to which offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one. But there are often many more options human resources can offer. If you are out of paid sick and personal days, perhaps colleagues can donate sick days so you don’t have to use FMLA without pay. Perhaps you can participate in a compressed work schedule or paid sabbatical. There may even be discounts or subsidies offered through your organization that pay for home care or other services you or your loved one might need.
4.) Cancel one thing on your personal or work schedule this week that isn’t absolutely essential or fun.
5.) Delegate something small either at work or in your personal life each week. In your personal life, you could delegate to one of your kids, your spouse, a friend, neighbor or another family member.
6.) Take 5 minutes to meditate, pray or listen to something inspirational. Or review an inspirational app or cards. Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Abraham-Hicks, Ariana Huffington, Doreen Virtue and Lissa Rankin offer options on youtube or the app store.
7.) Take a 5 minute break during the workday without your cell phone in your hand.
8.) Remind yourself that caregiving for your loved one who has dementia is not your job alone. Make a list of tasks you could delegate. Then circulate that list to family and friends.
9.) Figure out a Plan B for caregiving. If Mom needs to go to the doctor and you can’t miss that business trip, who will step in? Who are your back up people? These back up persons could be a combination of family, friends and paid helpers.
10.) Identify a Plan B for work. Since an emergency with your loved one could occur anytime, always have instructions ready for your colleagues in case you need to be out of the office for several days unexpectedly.
Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, MSW, LCSW-C, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University is the author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One. The founder of Jenerations Health, she helps healthcare organizations grow by empowering patients and caregivers. To download a free chapter of the book, go to www.cruisingthroughcaregiving.com.