7 Top Tips for Juggling Work and Eldercare

From scheduled call times to flexible working patterns, we share seven tips to help you manage work and caring for your elderly relative.

Managing the work-life balance can be challenging enough for most people. When you add caring for your elderly parents into the mix, suddenly things can feel a lot more stressful, and overwhelming.

As much as you love your parents and appreciate all they've done for you, it's understandable if you find it upsetting and draining when the parent-child roles reverse, and you become the carer. Combined with the demands of work, it's possible you're feeling under-supported and being pulled in too many directions.

With so much responsibility on your plate (especially if you're also raising your own family), how do you keep everyone happy - including yourself - without sacrificing your career? Here are a few tips that might help:

1. Talk To Your Employer About Flexible Working

As a carer you have certain statutory rights in addition to any rights outlined in your contract at work. 

If you have worked for your company for at least six months, you have the right to ask your employer if you can work flexibly. Think about what might work best for you: flexi-hours, working part-time, working compressed hours, job sharing, or being home-based for a number of days a week. One of the many lessons learned from the pandemic is that it is possible in many roles to work highly effectively from home.

You can make one request for flexible working each year, and although your employer doesn't have to say yes, they need to give a solid business reason for saying no. It might help to list out the options and outline how it will or won't affect your contribution to the company. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be for you to make your case clearly. 

2. Schedule Call Times

If you find your parent is calling you throughout the day and it's disrupting your work, have a chat with them about proactively scheduling a regular call, (unless there is an emergency of course).

You can suggest a time that suits you both (maybe during your lunch break) when you can have a quick chat to help break up their day and give them the opportunity to let you know if there is anything they need.

If  you feel your parent might benefit from additional contact and a chance to chat with someone, it might also be worth signing up for friendship calls

3. Streamline Responsibilities

Have a look at all the obligations you have in your life and see if there is anything you can step down from or enlist help with. Do all these tasks need to be done by you every time?

If you have children that need picking up from school, could you organise for a friend to pick them up sometimes, so you don't feel rushed? Think about setting up a weekly grocery home delivery from the supermarket to cut down on visits to the shops. If you're a volunteer for an organisation or committee, think about stepping down for a while - you can always pick things up again when you've more time.

4. Ask Friends and Family for Help

The saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to look after an elderly parent. 

Look at your network of friends, neighbours, and family and identify who might be willing to be at hand if you need help. Ask if they are happy for you to give their phone number to your parent and if it's OK for them to call if they need something while you're at work. Having this extra support could take a load off your mind and the extra contacts might be a welcome change for your parent.

5. Hire a Caregiver or Use a Befriending Service

If your parent is lonely and could benefit from some company, there are services such as face to face befriending that they might enjoy.

If your budget allows, you might find it helpful to hire a paid caregiver to pick up the slack when you're at work. Caregivers can help with anything from preparing meals, housekeeping, or just keeping your parents company when you're out for the day. 

Set up some interviews and make sure you involve your parent, so they are also comfortable with who you hire. Although this is an added expense, the extra time and peace of mind a caregiver can give you could be invaluable.

6. Take Carer's Leave

If there's a situation or event you are finding particularly challenging, (for example, your parent is ill or moving house), speak to your employer about taking some leave. 

As an employee, you are allowed reasonable time off for dealing with an emergency involving a dependant. This is sometimes referred to as "compassionate leave." You'll need to tell your employer as soon as possible and try to give an idea of how much time you'll need off so they can plan to cover your work.

Although there are no limits on how many times you can take time off for your dependants, your employer might want to have a meeting with you if it starts affecting your work, and it is up to their discretion whether or not you'll be paid for this time.

7. Find Time for Yourself

When you're balancing work, family, and caring for your parents, it can be very easy to forget about yourself.

It's not selfish to want to have some time alone. You might feel guilty about having "me time", but ignoring your own well-being could have adverse effects on your mental and physical health and also your ability to care for others.

Find a slot every week or even every day where you can do something that focuses on you. This could be something as simple as a short walk, a trip to the gym, time spent on a hobby - or a long luxurious bath! 

External Resources

You can also use our Speak to an Expert service for additional support and advice.