Saturday, December 8, 2012

Working and Caregiving: Communication, Flexibility, Creativity

On today’s to-do list:

·         Decorate the outside of the house;
·         Start and finish Christmas cards;
·         Pick up Robert and bring him to our house;
·         Help Robert maneuver through the myriad of Christmas decorations I have (hopefully) just installed;
·         Have Robert start his Christmas cards; Expecting him to finish in one day is unrealistic – actually expecting him to finish before Christmas is a stretch; (Yikes! I should have started a month ago!)

The list goes on but you get the idea. It’s the holidays and there’s a lot to do!

Before tackling my to-do list today, I joined Denise M. Brown of on her internet radio program, “Table Talk.”  I join Denise the second Saturday of each month to talk about the issues facing working caregivers.  As Sally Abrahms, a blogger on, shares from the AARP Public Policy Institute, “61 percent of family caregivers age 50-plus work either full-time (50 percent) or part-time (11 percent).”

That’s a lot of caregivers impacted by policies and benefits in the workplace that may or may not be sensitive to the needs of those caring for a family member or friend.

On the show today, Denise and I talked about how the holidays add extra stress to people already stretched thin with their responsibilities: work, family, caregiving, self and now the holidays.  How does the working caregiver juggle not only these responsibilities but the very real possibility of the unexpected (a hospital stay or illness) happening?

For starters, with communication, flexibility and creativity.

Employers don’t always know what an employee may need and it’s going to take a while for the law to catch up to the ever changing needs of both the employer and employee.  I know this first-hand after fighting for an expanded definition of family under CFRA.  Sibling care is not covered under either FMLA or the California version of it (CFRA).  If the law hasn't caught up yet, then employees need to ask for what they want from their employer.  Whether it’s a more flexible schedule or paid sick time to care for a relative not covered under FMLA or CFRA, communicating the employee’s needs to the employer is the first step to change.

Working caregivers can be the hardest working employees an employer has.  Add to this the benefit of having long-term employees and these are the employees employers do not want to lose.  Flexibility – from both sides – is essential to making this working caregiver situation work. 

Coming up with creative solutions so the working caregiver does not feel compelled to quit their job and the employer maintains a high quality employee is not easy but it is possible.  Flex-time, job sharing, a combination of working from home and the office are just a few creative solutions. 

Caregivers are very adept at creative decision making and problem-solving in their caregiving role and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t be in workplace either. 

In our conversation this morning, Denise tells a funny story about how she “creatively” managed her full-time and part-time jobs. 

As a working caregiver, how do you manage both the caregiver and employee roles?  What creative solutions have you suggested or implemented as an employee or employer?  I’m interested to know how people have resolved this conflict without leaving the workforce. 

If you’d like to listen to the show today, please click here 

I’m off to tackle my to-do list!  Wish me luck or the next picture I post could be me tangled in holiday lights and Christmas cards!


Chris MacLellan said...

Hi, Trish...I am finding that the Progressive Holiday Blog Party on is quite a bit of fun. It's great to connect with you on your own blog. Below is what I posted today on

Have a Great Sunday!

Trish/Denise: What a great show on Saturday morning. I was able to listen to the show streaming online through my iPhone which was I hooked up to my car radio. Not an easy feat for my technology skills, but it worked! You two sounded great in stereo!

Caregiving has taken a bite out of my professional life over the past ten years. Yet in the long run, I would rather have this type of bite, than the bit that often comes from the corporate world. I have experienced that type of bite on a couple of occasions, and it is not pleasant. The worst day in caregiving is 100% better than the feeling of the corporate bite.

I have often migrated to jobs in the past 10 years where I know there will be an ‘understanding’ of my caregiving roles and duties. Employers and employees who have never been in a caregiving role often, do not understand what it means to care for another person in this type of setting. We have to continue to educate them because as was mentioned on the show…who wouldn’t want to hire a caregiver, we are the most dedicated and responsible people and always go above and beyond the call of duty.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Chris, I'm so glad you liked the show! You are so right that caregivers are everything an employer would want in an employee.

I'm excited about the blog party and look forward to reading more of your site (I'm a member but don't get a chance to read it often enough). Thanks for all you do! Trish