Being self-employed has unique challenges when it comes to work-life balance. Add to this the responsibilities of caring for an ill spouse, aging parent or other family member, and this juggling act can feel overwhelming.
When you are self-employed, and especially if you work from your home, others often think you can simply come and go as you wish because you have no one else to report to. It is true that the flexibility of being self-employed may make caregiving easier for some. However, it can also make it more difficult because there may be no-one else to fill in for you, and time away from work can mean no income.
Many self-employed people simply end up working longer hours to compensate for the time away. And unlike family caregivers who are employed elsewhere, there is no paid sick leave nor paid vacation time that can be used toward time off for caregiving.
It is important to be proactive rather than reactive when balancing self-employment and caregiving. Establish clear and definite boundaries with family as to when you are working and not available for caregiving.
Whenever possible, it helps to schedule caregiving in blocks at the beginning or end of the workday, so you can focus on one responsibility at a time.
Some flexibility can be useful to permit you to respond to emergencies or during periods of intense caregiving demands. On the other hand, having a set work schedule can allow you to arrange for home support to cover for you. Decide in advance how you may best fit caregiving into your schedule.
Prioritize. Acknowledge upfront that you can’t do it all. Decide which items require your attention. Delegate where you can. Make a list of what you need help with and when – both at work and at home. With caregiving, decide what other family members can do and when outside services need to be hired.
Self-employed Canadians who are registered for access to the Employment Insurance program can now apply for Compassionate Care Benefits (CCB) through EI. CCB are available if you are caring for a gravely ill relative at risk of dying within 26 weeks. These benefits consist of six weeks total compensation per terminally ill family member plus two weeks of unpaid waiting period. For more information visit the HRSDC website at www.hrsdc.gc.ca
Familiarize yourself with community resources available to help you. Contact the Family Caregivers’ Network at 250-384-0408 or visit www.familycaregiversnetwork.org for resources in your area.
Next month: Legal and financial considerations for family caregivers
SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE APRIL 2012