Work, Life and Caregiving:  Four Strategies to Manage Fatigue

Woman stressed at work
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[By Lisa Boesen]

If you are an employee and a caregiver, you are one of over 14 million people in the United States trying to stay afloat in a tumultuous sea of shifting personal and professional responsibilities. It is estimated that one in every seven employees is taking care of a chronically ill or elderly loved one. If you are a caregiver and employed, how do you make it work? How do you care for work, your loved one and yourself without strangling by the three-way life rope?

Regardless of whether you are providing hands-on care, paying for professional caregiver assistance or a combination of the two, managing a chronic illness of another individual takes its toll.  There are many facets to consider – the disease itself, the prognosis, the changing care plan based on the prognosis, the personality type and communication styles of the loved one and yourself, grief and acceptance during the care experience, and role-reversal between the parent and child. In addition varying sibling support, financial management, sleep deprivation of the caregiver and/or the family, delivering the actual hands on care, medication management and care oversight of outsourced care assistance adds to the challenge. In some instances, extended family members and friends distance themselves creating additional emotional strain on the caregiver. Somewhere in the milieu is maintaining employment to support your own financial obligations and career. You still have to show up to work on time and perform to meet job expectations and many times go the extra mile in difficult economic times.

Individuals who volunteer or accept the life challenge as caregiver for a family member take on significant changes that affect work/life balance and family. Caregiver fatigue can easily ensue if precautions are not taken to care for the caregiver and the caregiver family. Work performance may insidiously decrease or the caregiver may struggle to maintain performance but burnout and potentially compassion fatigue may occur. Many times these changes may happen without the caregiver even realizing it.

What can you do?

Be aware of signs and symptoms of burnout and fatigue. Many caregivers begin the caregiving process enthusiastically and with great zeal. They believe in their herculean effort to care, problem solve and manage the discretionary effort it takes to care for others in extraordinary circumstances. Over time, as personal and professional demands outweigh the perceived resources, caregivers may begin to feel irritable, cut corners, avoid contact or become very distant with friends, family and colleagues.

Accept your humanity as a caregiver. Provide self-compassion for yourself. Give yourself that much needed mental break to empower yourself, fill your own cup back to at least half-full so you can continue to help others and complete your feedback loop. Think about it. We live in a world that requires us to meet specific expectations, quietly prefers we exceed expectations, values perfection and zero defects. Yet, we are imperfect humans. Think about being a fly on the wall of the universe and view how difficult it must be for imperfect humans to try to exist in a world that requires perfection.

Allow others to help. Ask. Delegate. Accept. Many times caregivers feel they can do it all themselves and consider using others assistance as a sign of weakness. In reality, we may actually be denying the spiritual opportunity for others to express their compassion by reaching out and giving.

Maintain open communication with your direct supervisor or manager. Many people fear sharing personal information at work in fear of discrimination, i.e. being looked over for promotional opportunities or stretch assignments for career growth. Yet, open communication is the path to obtaining flexible work schedules and other strategies to bring relief at home and restore productivity at work.

About the Author

Lisa Boesen, MAOM, PHR, is the creator of Creating Compassionate Connections™. With over 30 years of clinical, management and human resources experience in the healthcare industry, Lisa brings these insights and experiences into her publications, engaging presentations and interactive workshops. She is passionate about working with visionary organizations and individuals who believe in the power of empathy and compassion in the organizational experience to create and sustain excellent internal customer service and patient-centered care.

Visit to download your F*R*E*E copy of Define Your Destiny – 70 Tips from a Collection of Experts.

Article Source: Work, Life and Caregiving:  Four Strategies to Manage Fatigue