You Can Succeed as a Caregiver While Sustaining A Career

Succeed as a Caregiver While Sustaining a Career

August 31, 2020

Larry's personal caregiving journey crossed paths with his professional career when his father required emergency brain surgery. Larry shares how two decades of work experience in insurance could not prepare him for the difficult decisions he had to make. He finds purpose in helping caregivers navigate their own circumstances and offers advice that he's learned along the way. This is Larry's story.

As told to Open Caregiving and lightly edited to enhance readability while preserving the author’s voice.

Getting to know the caregiver

Hi my name is Larry Nisenson, I am the Senior Vice President, Chief Commercial Officer for Genworth U.S. Life Insurance Segment. I am from New Jersey and am honored to work on CareScout® Caregiver Support Services, an innovative program designed to provide expert guidance and personal support for those struggling to find the right help for their loved one.

What is your experience with caregiving?

My caregiving experience came unexpectedly and started with a phone call from my mother informing me that my dad was going to need emergency brain surgery. The next few weeks are a blur, but I can honestly say that despite over 20 years in the insurance business at that time, I had no idea what to do, who to call, or how to help. Although his surgery was successful, my father was left temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. Like many family caregivers, we needed to make quick and critical decisions with limited experience.

Fortunately, we had long-term care insurance to ease the financial burden, but nothing was available to help guide us down the caregiving path. Decisions around rehab facilities, physical therapists, at-home nursing, occupational therapy, mental health issues, and more needed to be made on our own.

I find purpose through CareScout’s mission to help family caregivers navigate the seemingly never-ending choices they face during this difficult time.

When did you get interested in supporting caregivers?

As mentioned above, my personal journey started years ago with my father, but my professional interest started 3 years ago when I joined Genworth Financial to support family caregivers and their loved ones.

Speaking of careers, how can caregivers sustain their own career?

As America continues to battle the Coronavirus pandemic, now more than ever our 41.8 million family caregivers are struggling to cope with the emotional, physical and financial challenges posed by caring for aging loved ones.¹ In fact, Genworth’s recent Caregiving in COVID-19: Consumer Sentiment Survey found that 1 in 3 adults unexpectedly had to spend more time taking care of loved ones, and 18% of them are caring for a loved one who is either older or in a vulnerable health category.² Consequently, a healthy work-life balance is increasingly more difficult to achieve.

While mastering the caregiver role while sustaining a career may seem insurmountable, a variety of support mechanisms are available to help you and your family successfully develop a smart plan of action. Be sure to take advantage of them all. Explore online and community resources, leverage local service providers and most importantly, don’t hesitate to solicit employer support.

What employer resources are available to support caregivers?

While the level of caregiver support can vary greatly based upon your employer, there are some standard benefits that might be available. For example, learn about your company’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies, as well as your allotted vacation time, personal time, accrued time and carry-over time.

Some employers go beyond the standard and are now offering employees caregiver support as part of their benefits package. For example, Caregiver Support Services from CareScout® is a dedicated benefit that employers can offer their employees to help ease the stress of caregiving. The cost of the program is covered by the employer, while the service is completely free for employees.

What community resources would you recommend?

Relief for caregivers can be just a click away thanks to a wide array of valuable online and community-based resources. For instance, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging offers access to regional, state and local resources designed to help maintain independence and well-being via services including meal delivery, transportation and in-home assistance. AARP’s website also provides very useful information about caregiving.

Further, to enhance an elderly loved one’s quality of life, caregivers can take advantage of local service providers capable of assisting with specific daily needs. Consider hiring a housekeeper to assist with tasks such as meal preparation, laundry, dishwashing, errands, and shopping. Medication management providers employ healthcare professionals who can help dispense pharmaceuticals, ensuring optimal drug efficacy and safety. In addition, medical alert providers offer advanced personal safety devices with automatic fall detection and mobile functionality that instantly notifies emergency contacts should an incident occur.

How can caregivers open a dialogue with their employers?

While initiating a conversation with your employer regarding caregiving needs can be daunting, keep in mind that he or she might very well be willing to help but is unaware of your increased burden. In fact, the takeaways from the recent National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 study are eye-opening, uncovering a serious communication gap between employers and caregivers juggling work-life balance.¹

The survey cited that 61% of caregivers say that helping loved ones has impacted their employment situation, with 53% of working caregivers reporting going in late, leaving early, or taking time off to accommodate care; worse still, 6% have had to give up work entirely and another 5% retired early.1 Rest assured that you are not alone.

How can they communicate their needs without jeopardizing their job?

Caregivers are commonly reluctant to speak with their employers because they are concerned their image and reputation will be compromised. This fear can be effectively offset by following a few simple steps.

1. Stay professional: Despite the highly emotional circumstances, it is important to do your best to leave your emotions at the door during this talk and be ready to educate your audience in a professional, objective manner.

2. Set the stage for your conversation: Prepare a short explanation of your situation. Cover the reason you are caregiving, what your responsibilities entail and why you need help. Make your manager or human resources representative aware of what compromises or efforts you have already made to make your circumstances practicable; this helps ensure your employer understands your willingness to collaborate with them toward a workable solution.

3. Finally, be sure to highlight the win-win: Discuss how your employer will benefit. Chances are your caregiving has had negative consequences on your daily work. Communicate that your objective is to improve job performance, reduce absences and minimize stress that may carry into the workplace. In short, you are an asset that can be strengthened with employer support.

How can caregivers prepare for a conversation with their employer?

Optimal preparation is key, so be sure to do your homework. Before talking to your employer, make it your business to know the basic facts including Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies, vacation time, personal time, accrued time and carry-over time. If possible, ask other caregiver colleagues about any work-related resources they may utilize to ensure your expectations are kept realistic.

Research available resources and accommodations. These might include adult daycare, flexible hours, remote work, employee assistance programs, internal support groups, and reimbursable elder care services, to mention a few. Some employers are now offering caregiver support as part of their benefits package.

Lastly, have a suggested solution at the ready. Invest the time to create a detailed, practical plan that concisely outlines your ideal support scenario. Practice presenting the plan in a positive, productive and interactive way. Close by thanking your employer for listening and working with you to find a mutually beneficial resolution – and be prepared to answer any subsequent questions.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like to add that many caregivers carry feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety, which is exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are resources to help, and I encourage your readers to seek them out. Whether you need an online support group, a sounding board to provide advice or just an empathetic ear, help is available.

Where can you find CareScout?

Caregivers and their employers can learn more about Caregiver Support Services from CareScout’s benefit page. CareScout leverages more than 20 years of experience and a network of 100,000+ healthcare professionals and facilities to provide employees with unlimited access to personalized care advice, and to help find suitable care solutions for aging loved ones.³

Sources:

¹ Caregiving in the U.S. May 2020, accessed on 06/08/20

² Genworth Caregiving in COVID-19: Consumer Sentiment Survey 2020.

³ Based on CareScout internal data as of January 2020.

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