How to balance caring and working during the coronavirus pandemic

Liz O’Donnell from Working Daughter has some advice for workers who are also juggling caring responsibilities during the coronavirus crisis.

Elder Care


Are you worried about elderly parents during the coronavirus crisis? Many older workers are also balancing caring responsibilities for older relatives with underlying health issues and this is a particularly anxious time for them.

So what can you do when visits are severely restricted and the usual support services may be interrupted and yet you are still having to work?

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Liz O’Donnell, founder of Working Daughter, a community for people balancing eldercare and career and author of Working Daughter: A Guide To Caring For your Aging Parents While Making A Living, gives some advice.

She says setting up the right environment or regular routines is important. For instance, regular, calm communication is vital for those not living with the relative. Your relatives will want to know you are okay too. Technology is a great tool for connecting, including voice and video calls or conferences, but may be difficult if your relative has cognitive issues or loss of hearing or sight. There are products such as Amazon Echo which can help as they can remotely assist with set up.

If you are working around caring responsibilities, O’Donnell advises having a separate space so elderly relatives do not feel they are constantly interrupting, but also have some means to call you if they need you. A daily schedule, including meals, activities and exercise, can also help to reduce worries about interruptions.

O’Donnell also suggests establishing boundaries, for instance, through visual cues such as having the office door shut, having your headphones on etc. Discuss when interruptions are vital, for instance, for going up and down stairs if they are at risk of falling.

If relatives are not living with you, again let them know when is the best time for calls and in what emergency situations interruptions are vital. These may need gentle repeating if relatives are suffering from dementia.

Lastly, she says to let your manager and colleagues know about any potential issues around caring, particularly given the unpredictable nature of caring. This crisis, says O’Donnell, will make visible the caring responsibilities people are dealing with every day. And, importantly, she counsels carers to take care of themselves.

She states: “Especially during this crisis, your ability to continue to earn a living while caring for your ageing parent is contingent on your own well-being. Now is the time to limit your consumption of negative news, stay hydrated, get fresh air, and add meditation, short walks, or yoga to your daily routine. Drinking water is perhaps the simplest thing you can do to take care of yourself. It increases your energy levels by helping blood to transport oxygen and other nutrients to your cells. And walks, meditation and yoga all aid in relaxation which helps you sleep at night.”

For those whose relatives are living with them, but having to social distance, there is advice here. 



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