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Balance Increasing Family Care Responsibilities and Career
Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Denver, CO
Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Balance Increasing Family Care Responsibilities and Career

The Caring Generation® – Episode 181, November 29, 2023. It’s no secret that caregiving is work. Learn practical skills and ten tips to balance increasing family care responsibilities and career from caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson.
This week’s episode of The Caring Generation podcast, 181, focuses on How to Balance Increasing Family Care Responsibilities and Careers in the context of work and working relationships. If you are a caregiver, you know that being a caregiver can eventually become a full-time job that consumes your life.

Caregivers: How to Balance Increasing Family Care Responsibilities

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Suppose you are earlier in the caregiver role and not yet contributing much time. In that case, you have a better opportunity to direct how you will balance increasing family care responsibilities and career.
So, as always, we’ll look at ten tips and the pros and cons of balancing family care responsibilities and careers so that you can make your own choices and decisions. The more information you have at your fingertips, the earlier in the caregiving journey and the more manageable the situation will be to manage.

1 Stress Changes Relationships

Number one for balancing increasing family care responsibilities and career is to realize that stress changes relationships. Stress will change the relationship with the person you care for, your spouse, children, brothers and sisters, and the people you work with.
Your emotional stress as a caregiver can impact everyone in your life. People react to stress differently.
Stress has physical and emotional signs:
  • Exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains or a rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Fear
  • Anger or irritability
  • Loss of patients
  • Stomach or gastrointestinal problems
To deal or cope with stress, some people turn to comfort food or substances. Others might isolate themselves.

The 3 F’s of Stress to Balance Increasing Family Care Responsibilities

Then, there is the idea of freeze, flight, or fight. When an unexpected situation arises, some people may freeze and not know what to do. The idea of denial can exist when someone thinks, “This can’t be happening to me or us.” You might also feel overwhelmed and unable to take action.
Stress Impacts Caregiver RelationshipsStress or feeling out of control can result in a fight response where the stressed person may become angry or agitated and lash out verbally at others.
This response can also happen if a caregiver feels attacked or criticized by a loved one who needs care or another family member.
Some people who are stressed take flight or isolate themselves. They may not want to discuss the problem and isolate themselves from family or other people by staying in their room and avoiding phone calls or text messages.
In the short term, for 24 hours, isolation to mentally focus can be a positive response if the time related to isolation is filled with positive activities like gathering information and creating a plan. However, if the response is isolation for avoidance’s sake, then the response is not helpful.
When a problem arises, some people see solving the problem as a puzzle or a challenge. They marshall all of their skills and create a plan of attack. Caregivers in any of these situations, freeze, flight, fight, or challenge, can also seek help.
Reaching out to others for information or emotional support is a positive action. Too many caregivers do not reach out because they feel they should be able to handle the situation independently.
The concern with not seeking help is that the big picture, short and long-term planning we’ll talk about in a moment often goes unidentified as an important step because of a lack of experience.

2 Do Your Personal and Career Values Align?

The second consideration for how to balance family caregiving and career responsibilities can be identified through a job or career. Look at your workplace situation and consider what is working and not working.
Values and goals transfer to family caregiving experiences. What are your personal values? Do your personal values align with your workplace and working relationships?
Most people spend more time at work than with families. Co-workers can become like a family if close and positive relationships exist.

Where Do Values Come From?

Let’s look at the source of values. Values can be learned from our culture, parents, extended family, friends, or workplace.
With time, as our identity and our goals evolve and change, personal values can change. So, for example, when you are young, you may value experiences highly.
Placing a high value on experiences may mean you want to travel and live among different cultures. Maybe you want to try several jobs to find out which you like the best. Seeking experiences may mean that you don’t stay at a job very long. You may give up old friends to make new friends or move away from home.
Value Health and EducationOn the other hand, as you age, you may place a higher value on good health. You set your clock to ensure you get eight hours of sleep every night. Sleep regenerates the body and the mind.
You may exercise every day. You may no longer stay out late at night because you get up early to go to a job that you love early in the morning.
Other values might include being a good person and defining what this means to you. You may value education, so you attend a technical school or get a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. There are many values that one can hold in life.
Some people value trust, respect, adaptability, or innovation. Some are purpose-driven.

Value Differences and Expectation Gaps Between Caregiving and Career

What are the values of the company where you work? If you don’t know, visit the company website, and you will likely find information about its vision, mission, and values.
Many caregivers are driven by their values. There are times when these values are an exact match with the family member who needs care, and then there are times when there’s not a match.
If your values do not match your employer’s, you might feel like you don’t fit in with your co-workers or the organization’s goals. Similarly, this happens in families.
If you moved out of the family home to go to school or moved out because you became employed, your values may differ from your family’s. Value differences can create a gap in expectations about responsibility and duty to care for aging parents.
Siblings often have different ideas about how or if they can or will contribute to helping or caring for an aging parent. If you are an adult child caregiver, this disagreement or unwillingness of your siblings to help can cause a lot of family conflict.
So, recognizing that everyone in your family may be operating from different value systems is essential to managing emotions so that you don’t unintentionally or intentionally destroy these relationships.

3 The Big Picture: Short-Term and Long-Term Consequences

Consider the big picture, including the short and long-term consequences of being a caregiver. If you are the person who needs care, you also want to consider the big picture of thinking about and planning for your care.
Balancing increasing family care responsibilities is not usually a short-term project. In my opinion, the term caregiving is often misunderstood or underused.
You will hear me say that caregiving begins at birth and extends to caring for yourself, aging parents, a spouse, and other people in your life, possibly including grandparents, siblings, or friends. So, being a caregiver can be a lifelong role similar to being a child who grows up, a parent, a spouse or partner, and eventually a person who needs care.
Your parents are the children of your grandparents. They were once young like you.
Adult children may assume they know best and not consider the life experiences of their parents.  Understanding the journey is a beneficial step in the caregiving journey for self-care and caring for others.

Balancing Family Responsibilities, Health, and Career

Grasping the concept of caregiving as a life journey can be challenging because society does not portray aging, dealing with health problems, or death as everyday experiences. Many factors related to aging, health, and accessing healthcare do not come into view until a person has a health problem or needs access to healthcare, and then it’s discussed.
Caregiver Journey to Seek BalanceSo it’s practical to look at life as a timeline with an end with a lot of great stuff and opportunities depending on your efforts. This big-picture approach is more straightforward: work through life transitions, adapt, and plan for reality.
When you take the driver’s seat, you may feel that your choices play a more significant part in how to balance increasing family care responsibilities and career.
So, if you are wondering what the “big picture” is about health, needing care, or caring for another person, it’s a long list of things.
To learn more about the big picture, check out the online course Caring for Aging Parents, which applies regardless of whether you care for yourself or another person.
Looking at the big picture to balance increasing family care responsibilities involves making a financial and medical care plan. You’ll find the details and much more information in this online program.

Short and Long-Term Planning

Let’s discuss short- and long-term planning specific to your job or career and relate this to caregiving.
Let’s assume that you like your job and want to advance, but that advancement requires learning new skills, which you are willing to do.
So, you might look at career advancement in two ways. This includes your skills or actions today to exceed your position’s requirements and what else it might take to be eligible for a promotion.
If you want a promotion, what are your options? Can you move to a horizontal or lateral position? Horizontal or lateral equals an opportunity to work in a different department or to master new skills without a significant change in authority or pay.
A vertical promotion is an upward movement that usually involves more responsibilities, possibly supervising others, plus a higher level title and a salary increase. So, when you think about advancing at work, you should also consider advancing or increasing family care responsibilities and the skills you will need to learn as a caregiver.
It seems easier to think about and plan for a career than family responsibilities because family responsibilities link to expectations without financial compensation. So, as a caregiver, it’s important to think of the person you care for as the central focus of your work.

The Link Between Values with Planning

One of the first steps in linking values with planning is understanding your parents’ or spouses’ values and what they want or do not want for care.
Once you have a mutual understanding, you, together or within the family, want to tackle these responsibilities in a short and long-term plan. Creating a longer-term plan means identifying all the parts and pieces in the puzzle that are involved at various decision points.
Start with a budget, as this may impact some of the decisions you make. What are your parents’ monthly income and expenses?
Eldercare Planning PuzzleIf expenses increase due to healthcare costs, is there enough money through income, savings, or retirement funds?
If not, you’ll need a plan to pay for increased expenses.
Similar to having budgets at work and making plans to stay within your department budget, having a personal budget is no different.
If you haven’t learned this yet, Medicare does not pay for all expenses related to aging and health after age 65. For this reason, it’s even more important to look at the big picture for the person who needs care and for the caregiver.
If you are the caregiver, do you have a monthly budget? How well are you managing your expenses and saving for your aging years?

4 It’s Not Your Job to Take Over The Life of a Loved One

As a caregiver—it’s not your job to take over. Your parent or the person who needs care must remain motivated and want to do as much for themselves as possible.
You may have heard the saying, “Use it or lose it.” This statement becomes increasingly relevant with age, as people who do less can do less.
Think of your life. Can you still do the activities you did five years ago? Have you maintained your strength and energy levels, or is your body weaker?
How are you engaging your mind? Are you keeping up with new technologies and learning new skills at work?

Doing Too Much Can Be Harmful

Caregivers who do too much or are overly helpful have good intentions that eventually backfire. You only increase your workload by training another person to become dependent on you.
Look at your work situation. Are you doing everyone else’s job?
Are you with a company where you have colleagues that work together? When you think of a work team, think of your family as a caregiving team.

5 Everyone Contributes

Considering how to balance increasing family care responsibilities means that—everyone contributes. If the team is you and your parent or you and a spouse, make sure you contribute as close to 50/50 as possible for as long as possible.
If you have siblings willing and interested in participating, find ways to divide the tasks and the time.
Part of what everyone can contribute is team building and being a team member.
You may be part of a departmental or cross-functional team at work. Building trust is an essential part of teamwork.
You do this with the person who needs care by doing what you say, being respectful, following through, and being direct and accurate in your communication. If you want to work together, the same ground rules should apply to relationships with your siblings and other family members.
Balance Increasing caregiving responsibilitiesNo indirect conversations, no gossip, being respectful and honest, and doing what you say will go a long way toward fostering positive and loving family relationships. I realize this is not possible in all families.
Do the best you can do.
As the lead or primary caregiver, don’t set yourself up for failure by doing too much. Go back to your values and live them.

6 Self-Care is Essential for Caregiver Survival

When trying to balance increasing family care responsibilities, you must take care of your physical and mental health and well-being. If you don’t, you can’t care for an aging parent, be a good husband or wife, or be a good parent or employee.
Practicing good self-care is necessary to make it through challenging days and times. If you are teetering on the edge, it won’t take much to push you into reacting to crises instead of maintaining internal peace and balance.
Along with self-care comes the idea of project management. If you manage projects at work that require people, time, tasks, and deadlines, you probably use a calendar or schedule.
You can do the same in your personal home and caregiving life. Years ago, when I worked full-time and attended college in the evenings, my days were scheduled down to the minute.
I planned a week or more ahead. I knew when I would be at school, doing my laundry, grocery shopping, and spending time with friends. The activity of calendaring and planning made it easier for me to survive hectic and crazy times and to accomplish a lot.
Many people think that they don’t have time to make a plan. I will say that you are less likely to succeed if you don’t have time to make a plan.
Planning allows you to break up tasks into manageable time frames, see your progress, and keep going. Some people don’t plan because they see a task or a project as this big thing.
When you break big projects into smaller tasks, they are easier to accomplish. Hence, the idea of looking at the big picture on a timeline of your life and creating short and long-term goals so you get from A to Z.

7 Negotiation and People Skills Help Caregivers Succeed

The next top for how to balance increasing family care responsibilities using work or career skills is learning or honing your negotiation and people skills.  While you may not think that you use negotiation skills if you try to convince anyone to do anything, you are negotiating and using your skills of friendliness and attraction.
Family Care PlanningAs a family caregiver, you will eventually encounter situations, if you have not, where you need other people to help you. For example, you need the help of a doctor, a nurse, or someone at an insurance company, who are all busy people.
You may have to negotiate appointment dates, times, and payment details for medical expenses.
You may need your doctor to send an order for a test sooner rather than later.
Follow-through on the caregiver’s part is extremely important to ensure your loved one gets the care they need.

Succeeding With Gatekeepers

Managing your timeline of care is up to you. Everyone else on the team is busy, and believe it or not.
You and the person you care for are not their #1 priority. So, learning how to work with others who have power or are the gatekeepers to people or events that you want is critical.
This is where managing emotions and stress levels can be critical. Being considerate of organizations and individuals who provide care can help you get what you want faster.
Think of how customer service works within your company. Admittedly, not all companies take customer service seriously, especially if they have a monopoly on a service and have few or no other options.
So when you interact with others, think about how they would rate you as a partner so that you intentionally create a positive experience so they want to help you.  Being kind and likable goes a long way to getting needed help.
Sometimes, negotiation and getting what you want may also require you to build your communication skills, especially when managing the healthcare, finance, and legal aspects of caregiving.

Managing Care: Words and Questions Matter

The terminology used across all of these areas varies greatly. You may think you are asking for X and are told that it’s not available or you can’t have it because the other person doesn’t understand what you want.
Call With PhysicianCommunicating 1:1 and clarifying information by asking questions is critical to your success.
Just as you may use these skills in the workplace for a project detail that isn’t clear, do that when managing medical or financial care for a parent or acting as their agent under a medical or financial power of attorney.
No detail can be too small when a critical need exists. As you begin to work with providers in healthcare and other areas, you will learn the language they use and how to ask the right questions to get the help you need.
Learning this process can be frustrating. Be patient with yourself and the person to whom you are making the request.
It’s okay to step back and say, “I’m not sure if I am asking the right question. This is what I’m trying to accomplish. Can you or someone else help me?”
When you ask this way, people are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful. Thank the people who helped you, as they will be more motivated to help you next time.

8 Be the Communicator

Take the initiative to be the communicator in your family if you are the lead or primary caregiver. Ask family members if they want to receive updates on a scheduled basis via email or a video call.
Being proactive about communication will allow you to manage your time better. Communication can also eliminate others wondering what you do all day, week, month, and year.
Most family members who are not the primary caregiver do not understand what the primary caregiver does. Many underestimate the time and effort required.
If you are a good communicator, you may have family members who offer to help instead of refusing to help. The opportunity can also support ongoing communication with the person needing care.
Why not schedule a regular group phone or Zoom call? Again, if your family members don’t see or communicate with the person who needs care, they may be less likely to help because they don’t see a need.

Out of Sight Is Out of Mind

By not establishing regular communication, the situation is out of sight or mind, or if there is no news, then the assumption is that everything is okay. While you may be capable, you don’t want others to think you have everything perfectly under control.
The previous recommendation for everyone to contribute means that everyone also communicates. Think of communication in the workplace for projects and everyday activities.
You feel more involved if your manager or team communication occurs. You feel that you are in the loop and part of the plan.
Surprises and mistakes can be avoided when everyone is clear on a project’s status and next steps. Relationships go more smoothly. Incorporate the skills you use at work into your family caregiving plan.

9 Structure and Frame Discussions

To structure and frame discussions, consider setting an agenda for a regular 30-minute family call. You, as the primary caregiver, set the agenda to give updates. Then, others on the call have 5 minutes to ask questions or state how they can contribute, and you wrap up the call.
This plan for a family call is similar to creating agendas for work meetings, and keeping everyone on track by recognizing their time is important.
You can use this tactic in regular conversations by being specific. For example, can we talk about X because of Y?
Again, the goal is to manage your time between caregiving, work, and everything else you have going on. If you prepare in advance and let others know what you want or need, they are more likely to respond and contribute helpfully.
Balance Family Care ResponsibilitiesFor example, how often has someone said, “Hey, I need to talk to you without providing context?
You have no idea what they want to talk to you about, so you may worry that the conversation will bring bad news.
Because this is where the mind goes, in the absence of information, the mind can go to fear, worry, and anxiety. So be transparent if you want others to be transparent with you.

10 Rely on Facts and Data Versus Emotions

 While being a caregiver is highly emotional, expressing or sharing emotions will not always result in your desired outcome. Instead, rely on facts and data.
As we discussed before, self-care is about survival. If you schedule regular self-care activities, you will more efficiently manage the emotional ups and downs of being a caregiver.
Creating this balance will support your time management skills because you can set your emotions aside, focus on the facts and realities, and then adapt to situations as necessary.
For example, if you take a loved one to a doctor’s appointment, have facts available about changes in health or concerns you want to discuss. The doctor’s time is limited. Give the doctor the facts so they can do their job and give you the results or follow-up steps you need.
The same applies to conversations with the person you care for if the topic is necessary or a decision must be made. Have a plan to provide facts and data, offer time for questions, and discuss the pros and cons.
Much like you would do in the workplace if you present information and a decision is required. There are so many skills that you have that you can apply to other areas of your life.
family caregiver support programsThen think of the opposite: how many caregiving skills are you learning that you can relate to other parts of your life or other situations? Advancing your education or skills is never wasted.
Give thought to practical steps and processes that you use in the workplace and identify ways to bring these skills to organize and balance increasing family care responsibilities.
You have the abilities and the power to accomplish your goals if you approach situations thoughtfully, practically, and process-relatedly. Identify the skills you need. If you don’t have them, find a way to get them, and you’ll soon be on your way to a more manageable and positive experience as a family caregiver.
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Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA, is an international caregiver subject matter expert, advocate, speaker, and consultant. With more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, fiduciary, and care manager in the fields of caregiving, health, and aging, she delivers one-of-a-kind support for family caregivers and aging adults.

Pamela may be reached at +1 303-810-1816 or through her website.


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