It is possible to be a Carer and work!11 March 2014
A guest blog from young adult carer, Carina, as part of NIACE’s WE Care project, which is exploring the support young adult carers require to make successful transitions into learning and work.
I began working at the age of 16. I sent my CV out to as many shops as I could and was successful in getting a weekend job in a small beauty store, which fit perfectly around my studies at college, however not around my home life.
I am a Carer. I have been a Carer for my mother since I was 5 years of age and more recently my father as well. I also have a little sister who I support. Trying to work out at 16 how I was going to study, work and care as well as look after myself was extremely tricky. When looking for employment I had to think about many things: is it close to home, do I tell them about my caring responsibilities, what do I do if I have to leave promptly? As well as these things many worries filled my mind: would my parents be ok alone, I don’t want my little sister to pick up any caring roles, is the house clean, will I have time to study?
An average morning when working at the store would be: waking up 2 or 3 hours before work (this could be at 5 or 6 in the morning), getting myself ready, making lunch for everyone to have while I’m out, preparing dinner so that it will be half done for when I get back, feeding animals, tidying up, thinking up a list of nice things for my sister to do (leaving money for her to do this) and then getting everyone up.
I didn’t tell my first employer I was a Carer. I did not want to be treated differently and did not know how they would respond. I now, however, am a part time family support worker with flexible hours. My employers know I am a Carer and are fantastic! I can answer the phone whenever, rush off if needed and my colleagues regularly ask how I am.
My current employers are amazing and many employers should be like they are for Carers. The main thing employers can do, which is easy enough, is to ‘check in’ with their employees who are Carers. This just means asking them how they are, giving them the time and place to talk and get things off their chest. Another thing employers should consider is offering flexible hours to Carers. Most Carers want to do their job to the best of their ability, but unfortunately things come up, normally at the most inconvenient times. Flexible hours would mean that if a Carer has to leave an hour early they can come in an hour earlier the next day. One of the other things which is most important to Carers and the person they care for is their mobile phone, being able to check it, answer important calls and charge them if the battery is running low. Employers need to understand this and let Carers have access to their phones in case of an emergency.
My message to other Carers looking for employment is: It is possible to care and work! If you are honest, organised and look after yourself you can be employed and keep caring for your loved one. It’s also important to remember that it is ok to say ‘No’ at home and ask for help. Sometimes the person being cared for can do more than they think and you working could allow them to build their confidence and independence. Outside support can also do both individuals a world of good.
March 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am
Thank you Carina, this is an amazing blog and I’d like to share it further if you are comfortable with this.
A year ago I was a Carer, helping my mum look after my dad (he died last April). Until the previous year I was also primary Carer for my birth mom. For the year where the two overlapped, I don’t think I sat down once without falling asleep.
You have beautifully and painfully described the unremitting graft of caring (I know from your loving tone that you will know the joys when you find them to). Your suggestions for how employers can help are spot on. I, too, was lucky to have an employer who understood that I would deliver everything I set out to do, as long as I was allowed some freedoms to do that. They had to trust me and that was challenging for them, but I hope that they can see looking back that I never let them down.
All too often, employer/employee relationships are not based on trust. When they are, flexibility comes easy.
I am so glad that you are able to find a solution and I hope it holds for you, as long as it needs to. You take care.