Very few caregivers are able to balance working and caregiving, yet many do it alone. The truth is some caregivers experience occupational stress as they attempt to balance working and caring for a sick or disabled loved one. Long-term occupational stress can gradually turn into occupational distress as one attempts to manage multiple competing responsibilities and some caregivers end up leaving their job. Caregivers who give up employment not only face the devastating blow of losing their professional role, but also face losing financial security and work benefits as well.
Melissa Jasper is a full-time mother, caregiver, and entrepreneur. She chatted with us about her experience of being a working family caregiver.
Please share a bit about being Harper’s mother including your experience caring for her.
I continued working in Corporate America although it was difficult. After Harper’s surgery I was set to go back to work, but after much contemplation and I came to the realization that I wasn’t a priority for the company. Caring for Harper and my family was my priority, so I gave my two weeks’ notice. I was talked into staying an additional two months but finally left my job.
Saying goodbye to Corporate America was a blessing in disguise. Harper’s health started to decline again. For the next four years Harper was in and out of the hospital. Then finally, after numerous misdiagnosis, mounting medical debt, and too many stays in the hospitals to count, the doctors finally had answers for us. The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital diagnosed Harper with FPIES (Food Protein Induced Entercolitis Syndrome) and PFAPA (Periodic Fever Syndrome). Truth be told, if I would have stayed in a corporate setting, I would have lost my job because I would have had to miss so much work to care for Harper.
I started a home-based business to provide income for our family. I needed something that I could work from anywhere. It has taken hard work and dedication however becoming an entrepreneur was my saving grace.
I found a small local private school that was willing to work with us so Harper could attend school once she was strong enough. The first two years of school, I home schooled Harper using the same curriculum as her private school. This January (2019) Harper began attending school full-time for the first time. She is thriving now in school! Our family has a better understanding of how to care for her daily.
How did you balance your professional career with caring for your daughters? It was tough. Finding balance was difficult at first. I worked on my Business in my spare time. I found that I was constantly advocating for the best medical care for Harper. It wasn’t easy. I also had to fight with our insurance company to cover things that they normally wouldn’t cover. I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I was on the phone constantly advocating. My Faith is truly what got me through it all. Last year you where you shared your journey of caring for your daughter Harper at the Caregiver Wellness Summit. Please share a bit about your experience. The Caregiver Wellness Summit was the first time I had ever spoken of our experience publicly. It brought out so many emotions that I had bottled up inside. Sharing our story helped me realize that I am not alone. There are resources and organizations like Caregiver Support Services who support caregivers.
What advice regarding the importance of self-care do you have?
Self-care was very difficult for me to make a priority because I was on autopilot for so long. I ignored the signs that I was becoming weak. It has taken me over the last 10 months to realize how important self-care is. Caregiving can be emotionally, physically and financially exhausting. It can take a toll on you without you even knowing it. Education is important as most of us are in denial about needing and accepting help.
What might employers do to better support caregivers?
Employers should offer additional paid and or non paid leave for employees that are caregivers. Having resources available for emotional and financial support would also be helpful for those of us working and caring for someone we love.