March 29, 2024

How To Balance Work and Caregiving Responsibilities

Written By
Suzanne Boutilier

Key Notes:

  • Identify all responsibilities, and delegate as many as possible to others
  • Save time with technology that can streamline shopping, scheduling, and doctor visits
  • Brainstorm with employer on solutions that support caregiving responsibilities
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The work of a family caregiver can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. Throw a full-time job—or even a part-time gig—into the equation, and our plates often seem overwhelmingly full. About 60% of family caregivers are trying to strike a balance between our work and caregiving responsibilities. Because frankly, our jobs are keeping our loved one’s care and our families afloat through our financial journey of family caregiving.

All of this sounds like a recipe for caregiver burnout. Because it is. But with some time, attention, and support, we may be able to get our work-life balance back into balance. Here are four steps working caregivers can take to manage all of the demands that are being placed on us.

1. Understand what our responsibilities are 

Before we can get all of our full plates spinning, we have to understand what’s on each one. I’m a list-maker. So I sat down at my computer and drafted a list of everything that I do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I started with household tasks like mowing the lawn, changing sheets, and taking the garbage to the curb. Then I added parenting responsibilities like school events, extracurricular activities, and family time with my children. And next were the caregiving duties I handle for my Dad (I share duties with my sisters). I gave myself a week to make this list, because I kept thinking of more tasks.

Looking at my list, I realized there’s no way I can do everything on it well in the 80 hours that I don’t spend working or sleeping every week. So it was time to prioritize.

I thought critically about each of the tasks, and started categorizing them:

  • Underlines for tasks that take a lot of time
  • Yellow highlight for tasks that are physically or emotionally draining
  • Green highlight for responsibilities that are financially draining
  • Blue highlight for tasks that bring me joy or satisfaction
  • Red highlight for non-negotiable tasks
Checklist of responsibilities for family caregivers

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of yellow, green, and red tasks. And too many of them were underlined. But at least now I knew which tasks I should focus on finding support for. Finding help with bold, yellow, or green tasks would make the biggest impact on me.

2. Delegate 

Once I knew what I needed, I was able to have an honest conversation with my immediate family members about what I was struggling with. I shared my list and asked them to help me brainstorm ways that we could work together to get all of these things done. I’m not married. But both of my kids are teens, so they’re more than capable of taking on more responsibility. And there are some tasks that, it turns out, they actually enjoy.

If your kids are still young, maybe a spouse/partner can pitch in. Or all of your siblings could make similar lists and you can swap tasks so everyone is playing to their strengths and no one is bearing more responsibility than they can handle.

Make sure to have this conversation when you’re calm. I know, easier said than done. As family caregivers, we’re often tired and our emotions, raw. But approaching it as an opportunity for cooperative problem-solving, not a gripe-fest, makes it a better experience for everyone.

Remember, not everyone’s abilities lie in the same area. Some family members may have more time than money, so they may be better equipped to bring dinners and drive to doctor’s appointments. Others with more money than time may be better suited to ordering takeout or paying for respite care. It’s all help. My thinking is, if I don’t have to do it, I’m grateful.

3. Make the most of employee benefits

It can be hard to grow and advance in our careers if we work for an employer that doesn’t appreciate the demands of caring for aging parents or family members. In this situation, it can even be hard to hang onto our jobs, with the work hours we miss due to competing responsibilities. But more and more, employers are seeing the value of providing caregiver benefits to their employees. A recent study by Stanford University found that workplace policies that support family caregivers can provide companies an impressive 336% return on investment. How? Increased productivity and retention and reduced absenteeism.  So don’t be surprised if your employer offers one or more of the following benefits.

Flexibility

In the years since the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have been more open to offer flexible scheduling and remote work. Some also offer job-sharing. It’s worth it to ask your HR department what accommodations are available for family care providers.

Family Leave

Employers with 50+ employees are required by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to offer up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to employees to care for a family member with a serious health condition. This leave is unpaid. But the law guarantees that you can return to your job or a similar position upon return.

Eleven states plus Washington, DC have expanded on federal FMLA by offering up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for employees to care for a family member with a serious health condition. You can find out about your state's family leave laws on our Family Leave resource.

States that offer FMLA

State-paid family leave can be taken concurrently with federal FMLA to protect your job.

Employee Assistance

Check your benefits to see if you can take advantage of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These can provide a range of services including benefits counseling, legal help, eldercare information, and more.

Dependent Care

Some employers cover a portion of care services, including adult day care. Or you may be able to pay for these services with pre-tax dollars through a flexible spending account (FSA).

Community

Your employer may also have an employee support group (or Employee Resource Group) for family caregivers. Here you can find emotional support and caregiving tips from others in the same boat as you. If your employer doesn’t have one, they may have a list of local or virtual support groups that you can join. Or you may suggest starting one. 

4. Save time with technology

Say what you will about our addiction to electronic devices, but they have the power to deliver us from overwhelm. Here are just a few examples of how tech can help us keep all of our plates spinning.

Productive Commute

If you take public transportation to and from work, spend the ride clearing emails, meeting deadlines, and managing projects via your laptop or phone.

Telehealth

Schedule as many doctor’s appointments as possible virtually. This will save time on the road and in the waiting room.

Scheduling

You and anyone else caring for your elderly parent can coordinate schedules on a shared calendar, like Google Calendar.

Shopping

Sure, there’s Amazon. But you can also use apps like Instacart to do grocery shopping for you and the older adult(s) you care for. Online retailers like CareWell offer discounts on caregiving supplies. And you can find low prices on durable medical equipment like wheelchairs and walkers at Best Buy Health.

5. Be transparent with your employer

If we’re working full-time or part-time while caring for elderly parents, at some point we may have to let our employer know that something’s got to give. Conversations about our caregiving responsibilities with our employer can be even more emotionally challenging than conversations with family members. With our family, we’re comfortable sharing our vulnerability. That’s not always the case with a supervisor at work. But if caring for an aging parent is starting to impact our job performance or work hours, it’s best to be proactive about alerting a manager. Here are some tips to make these conversations productive:

  1. Think about who we trust and have a good relationship with within the organization. Start the conversation there. Having allies on our side makes the process easier.
  2. Prepare for the meeting. Arrive with organized talking points and possible solutions. This could mean finding examples of the ROI of offering caregiver benefits. Eg: Offering caregivers flexibility can aid recruitment and retention
  3. During the meeting, highlight what we’ve been doing really well for our employer recently. Then transition to how we could be doing better if we had certain types of assistance. Employers love a good win-win situation.  
  4. Be open and transparent. No need to get defensive or over-explain why we feel the way we do. Our feelings are valid, and we don’t need to justify them. 
  5. Brainstorm with our manager what we can do to address some of the challenges that we’re experiencing. For example:some text
    • Would it be beneficial to shift to a flexible work schedule instead of a traditional 9-5 workday? 
    • Would it be helpful to work from home on certain days of the week? If so, what pieces of technology could our company offer to make this model work for everyone? 
    • Could our supervisor shift our projects so that they have a longer deliverable deadline? This could help us plan around our caregiving schedule.

Assess The Plan

Once we’ve worked out a new plan with our family and employer, it’s smart to take time to assess if it's working the way we hoped it would. Sometimes what looks good on paper, doesn’t pan out in action. And that’s okay. It just means we need to do some tweaking.

Set up checkpoints

It takes a while to get into a new rhythm. So setting up a first checkpoint around the 3-month mark will allow us time to see what’s working and what’s not. If the changes we’ve implemented have made our work-life balance better, we’ll probably notice that we’re feeling happier—or at least less stressed. If not, it’s time to tweak, then set up our next checkpoint in another three months.

Checkpoints can include:

  • Asking family members how the balance of responsibilities feels to them
  • Asking our supervisor if we’re still meeting or exceeding workplace expectations
  • Keeping track of our own eating and sleeping habits
  • Noting time we’ve made for self-care
  • Assessing the wellbeing of the person we’re caring for to identify any warning signs


Emotional and financial stress can have a real impact on our physical and mental health. It can cause us to feel sluggish, lethargic, and depressed. It can even leave us more susceptible to illness. If we don’t care for our own health, we can’t provide the care our aging family members need. So finding our own balance isn’t a selfless task. It will also make us better caregivers. If you're looking for ways to relieve some financial stress, we've created a guide on ways to get paid as family caregiver to help you earn some extra income.

At RubyWell, we’re building tools to help relieve the financial strain on family caregivers. Right now, you can access coupons for up to 80% of prescription prices with our prescription savings tool. And we’re currently building a comprehensive and easy-to-use tool that will help caregivers discover unused Medicare Advantage Supplemental Benefits. If you’d like to be among the first to hear about future products, join our waiting list. 

Was this story helpful for you? Share it with family or friends who are juggling the demands of work and caring for an older family member.

Reviewed By
Suzanne Boutilier

Suzanne Boutilier has been working and writing in the caregiving space since 2021. She also helps her sisters care for their aging father.

Reviewed By
Elyse Dasko

Elyse Dasko is a leading communications strategist in age tech, caregiving and the longevity market.