Many family caregivers are working professionals, some of you may have retired to meet the demands of your new role, and because of the responsibilities and expenses of caring for a loved one had no choice but to go back into the workforce. Your job inside and outside of the household are very demanding, much focus and attention is needed for it. You feel guilty when you are not able to give 100% to your job and especially so, if colleagues are not very understanding of the circumstances. The job (at work) then begins to feel more demanding, but you need this salary to help not only pay your bills, it is also used to care for your loved one. You have to balance the medical bills, doctor’s appointments, meals and if that wasn’t enough, before you get to work you have to assist them in dressing, bathing and eating. You feel like you are constantly juggling and balancing between your job and your caregiving role; I understand.
How do you separate the two?
Firstly, you need a strategy, which comprises of Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and possible a Plan D, this would help with caring for your loved one while keeping your job.
Managing YOUR day-to-day activities
Get organized, because it’s likely that you have a lot on your to-do list, now isn’t the time to try to keep track of everything in your head. Create a family calendar so everyone knows what’s happening, and use it to track activities or doctor’s appointments. If possible, ask siblings, friends or family to help out, and make a schedule that includes everyone.
Now many of us are doing this on our own, your siblings live overseas and they don’t understand or, they just can’t be bothered so it comes down to me. You know what, that’s ok because you are a truly amazing person, you can do it and you have been doing it all on your own. This is how you are going to continue doing it, so, you break down the list of everything that needs to be done. Contact the Caregivers Association of Trinidad & Tobago (CATT) and we will sit down together and find a solution that will work for you and your loved one. It’s not going to happen overnight, but at least you can rest easy until we get there.
Visit your local agency on aging, there are many assistive programmes available. You can enquire at the Division of Ageing about which is applicable to you or to your loved one. Any assistance that you can get, TAKE IT. Being proud and catching your tail makes absolutely no sense for both you and your caree.
Here are a few of the programmes used to support the elderly in Trinidad and Tobago:
Clothing Grant, Dietary Grant, Disability Assistance, Emergency Cases Fund, Emergency Housing Repair Grant
Free Bus Pass, Geriatric Adolescent Partnership Programme (GAPP), Geriatric In-Home Care in Tobago
Hardship Relief Programme, Home Help Grant, House Rent Subsidy, Legal Aid, Medical Equipment Grant
National Social Development Programme (NSDP), Old Age Pension, Pharmaceutical Grant, Public Assistance
Retiree Adolescent Partnership Programme (RAPP), Social Welfare Division Offices
Targeted Conditional Cash Transfer Programme - TCCTPNational Insurance Board,
Read your employee handbook, depending on the company you are working for whether it be private or public, there may be policies on caregivers like; flexible work options, and family leave that may apply. You may also have access to an employee assistance program, which can be a helpful resource.
Keep work separate as much as possible, try to take care of caregiving duties in your personal hours, rather than during work hours. Schedule calls and doctor’s appointments during your lunch hour, and do your research on your loved one’ condition after you’ve gone home for the day. Try to keep doctor appointments in the afternoon where by you can probably come in early, work through your lunch and leave early. By doing this you would have put in the relevant hours and work done for the day.
Have a backup plan. That allows you to always stay on top of your responsibilities. In some cases, try to assist other co-workers with their work load, there may be a time when you have to leave work in a hurry. Make sure you have a co-worker or two who can step into your role if needed. It comes down to I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Remember to say thank you and show your appreciation towards your co-workers, this relationship goes a long way.
How to Talk to Your Manager or HR
If you’re caring for a loved one, it’s a significant part of your life, and your manager or supervisor should probably have some idea. Making it known that you have an important commitment - but that you’re making every effort to continue to put in 100% at work - makes you look thoughtful and devoted to your job. Many of us caregivers don’t want anyone to know and, in some cases we may have colleagues that love the gossip; but this is not your concern. You need this job more than ever and, you don’t have the time to think about what other people have to say. Whether you say or not they will still talk. So have that conversation with your superiors today, there’s no need to go into all the nitty gritty details about your caree, but just give the basics on how demanding this role can be sometimes. It is not that you don’t value your job, but there maybe times when you are so overwhelmed about the disease and how it is affecting your caree, that you may seem lost or in a mood that maybe offensive to your boss or colleagues. In many cases you are not really aware and you end up apologising in advance for making anyone feel uncomfortable. You see, as much as we need persons to be understanding to us we have to be understanding to others. As they say, “do onto others, as you want them do onto you”
Ask about flexible work policies, you may be able to make your life easier while still getting your job done. Take advantage of a flexible work schedule that your company may already offers to employees or if not, you can discuss whether a flexible schedule might be possible for you. You don’t want to keep asking for time off and at some point this may get old and your boss if not aware of your situation, and this may force them to think you are slacking on the job. A flexible schedule might also mean working remotely a few days a week. It’s a good idea to think about how your boss will feel about the changes you’re suggesting and come up with a plan that meets as many of your needs, and the company’s, as possible.
As mentioned earlier, you may need to take initiatives on your own such as, when you are discussing a flexible schedule. Maybe suggest, I can come in for 7am, work through my lunch and if possible leave at 3pm and this can be done at least 2-3 times a week, or you can come in 2 hours later and work through your lunch. You have to also be flexible, don’t expect your boss to be agreeable right away and, in some cases the company may not have such policies or flexibility in place, depending on your job spec. Schedule a meeting, this isn’t something you should bring up over coffee in the break room. If you anticipate that you might need some time away, an adjustment to your schedule, or you simply want to let your boss or HR know that a situation is unfolding -- set up a formal time to talk. You’ll both be more focused. Sometimes we want to start this conversation in the corridor or car park but this topic is for a meeting that requires a structured conversation. Make a list and have your suggestions typed out, provide your boss with a copy of the document so he/she can follow along with you.
Make it clear that work is still a priority.
If you’re changing things at work, make sure your boss knows you have a plan for getting your work done. If you’re leaving early but will be back at your computer at 9 p.m. to send out the emails, let her know. It’s easier for your boss to be supportive if you’re still a productive member of the team- even if you have to put in hours over the weekend. Do what needs to be done, because you need this job and the salary that comes with it.
Don’t wait for an emergency to bring it up.
If you can, have this discussion with your boss earlier rather than later. If you need to change your schedule or start telecommuting, it may take time to make the transition. I know that is difficult to start the communications, because you have not fully grasped all that comes with the illness or are really prepared for what is going to happen in the next few days, weeks, months.
Using your vacation and casual days.
Before you start applying for these days, have the conversation with your boss and try to find flexibility in your work schedule. Also have conversations with the doctor on having visits on a Saturday or late afternoons, instead of during the week days. Remember, you don’t get if you don’t ask.
These are to be used for exactly that. Caring for a loved one is filled with many challenges and your health in some instances may also suffer. Keep these days for you, so when you get the flu or have to treat with unexpected medical situations for yourself you have the time to do so. If you give everything away for your loved one, what will you have remaining for you when you really need it.
If you are not sure where or how to start the conversation with your boss, no problem. You can even ask your boss if it is ok for a representative of CATT to come with you to the meeting. You may be feeling overwhelmed and that is ok, but sometimes the support of a third person who you know is in your corner, makes all the difference in the world. WE are here for YOU.
Are you a Family Caregiver? Or Were you a Family Caregiver? ALL are Welcomed.
Join CATT - Caregivers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (Support Group)
(Membership is FREE – Call or WhatsApp - 1-868-310-2742)
Monthly Support Group meeting held 2nd Saturday Every Month 11am to 1pm
Jan 12th 2019 Jul 13th 2019
Feb 9th 2019 Aug 10th 2019
Mar 9th 2019 Sept 14th 2019
Apr 13th 2019 Oct 12th 2019
May 11th 2019 Nov 9th 2019
Jun 8th 2019 Dec 14th 2019
Location will be given when you confirm attendance. As our locations are exciting, warm and inviting and always changing. We look forward to meeting you.
Send comments to email [email protected] Or WhatsApp 310-2742
Division of Ageing – 623-2608