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5 Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance with Aging Parents

5 Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance with Aging Parents

Caring for our aging parents isn’t easy. Acting as a caregiver can result in unwanted stress and can put a strain on your relationships and career. According to AARP, about 25.5 million Americans struggle to find work-life balance while caring for their aging parents. Though striking that balance isn’t easy, today we’re going to share some tips on how to find a routine that works for you.

1. Prioritize and Organize

There is a “six-step process” that can help you take control of your work-life balance:

  1. Assess your situation
  2. Learn about your available resources
  3. Weigh your options
  4. Implement your plan
  5. Look out for changing circumstances
  6. Modify your plan as needed

Between work, family, and aging parents, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Before you continue, take a moment to fully appreciate what needs to be done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Do your parents have regular doctor’s appointments? Do your children have after-school activities that you need to take them to? Write down these errands and activities, either on a notepad or on your computer. Visualizing everything you need to address allows you to move on to the next step: organization.

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Creating a schedule to follow is a lot easier once you know what to prepare for. In today’s world of apps and messaging, it’s easier than ever to set reminders and keep everyone in the loop about what needs to be done. Remember to include all necessary, non-health related errands in your schedule: Designate Saturday morning as your time to grocery shop for your parents, for example, instead of going whenever you have the time. Take advantage of the many calendar apps that let you share appointments with other people’s calendars so they can help out when needed. (More on this later.)

2. Speak With Your Employer

While we all want to show our dedication to our job, sometimes work’s demands can affect our ability to check in with our aging parents. If you find yourself in this situation, talk with your employer and try to come up with a manageable solution. Can adjust your working hours so you can check on your parents in the morning or on your way home? Could you work from home? Before starting the discussion, have your responsibilities and contributions laid out in order to guide the discussion towards practical solutions.

Being prepared before walking into your supervisor’s office not only shows that you take your situation seriously, but also shows that you don’t want possible disruptions to affect your productivity.

It’s also worth speaking with an HR rep to get an understanding of what assistance options are available to you, either through your company benefits or your insurance plan. You might have personal days designated for family emergencies, or other resources through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Remember that there are also government-sanctioned programs like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) designed to help employees address family matters without fear of losing their job.

3. Reach Out to Family and Friends

Nobody says you have to care for your aging parents all on your own. This is one of the many myths that surround elder care. Reach out to your personal network for help with your parents. Considering asking your parents’ neighbors to check in during bad weather to make sure they’re alright. If you have siblings or other close relatives, ask them to take turns taking your parents to doctor’s appointments or on errands. If you’re uncomfortable asking for this type of help, offer something in return: maybe treat them to a home-cooked meal or offer to house sit for an upcoming vacation.

4. Find an Elder Caregiver

While you may be able to spread out the responsibility of caring for your parents between a few people, this may not be enough. Circumstances may change: if your parent suffers an injury or becomes less able to take care of themselves, it may be necessary to hire an elder caregiver. While you can reach out to a traditional agency to find you a caregiver, other companies like CareLinx and KindlyCare utilize the “sharing economy” model to match caregivers with those who need them. With these companies, you are in charge of interviewing and hiring caregivers, giving you flexibility while also ensuring caregivers are properly paid for their time.

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5. Make Time for Yourself

There are many ways to go about maintaining your work life balance, but perhaps the most important is remembering to take care of yourself, too. Don’t neglect your own health; as much as you want to be there for your loved one, signs of exhaustion, colds, or other potential sickness will limit your ability to take proper care of them. Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Basic tips for living a healthy life, including proper sleep and healthy diet, shouldn’t be forgotten. To reduce the risk of burnout, take regular breaks at work and at home, whether that be eating lunch outside or going for an evening walk.

Speaking of burnout, there’s no shame in asking for extra help or some extended time off. Perhaps ask a family or friend to watch your loved one outside of their schedule so you can take a weekend vacation or spend an evening out with friends. Whatever you decide to do with your time off, try to talk about something other than caring for your loved one. But if you need to talk to someone who can help manage your stress, consider joining a support group. PBS explains there are online groups dedicated to people dealing with elder care, so don’t worry if there aren’t any local groups near you.

What tips do you have for maintaining a work-life balance when caring for aging parents? Let us know in the comments below.

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Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via image.shutterstock.com

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Kathleen Webb

Co-Founder, HomeWork Solutions

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

Bonus:

If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

3. Take meaningful time for yourself

We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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No time for me-time? Try this:

If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

Bonus:

Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

4. Get productive and feel accomplished

Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

Try this:

Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

The bottom line

There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

The only question is — which tip will you try first?

Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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