Strategies for Reducing Stress when Work and Caregiving Clash

By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, MSW, LCSW-C, CSP

Employee assistance professionals are all too familiar with the dilemmas many people are facing as incredibly busy, often highly stressed employee caregivers. As a result, the EAP should consider sharing the following strategies with employees who are also busy with caregiving responsibilities. 

* Make sure the employee’s managers’ and colleagues understand that he/she is also busy caregiving. While an employee doesn’t need to share every painstaking detail with a boss, it is important that he/she knows you are a caregiver and understands a little about what that involves. Often, working caregivers are reluctant to share these details, much the way some working mothers are reluctant to discuss childcare issues because they don’t want their boss to doubt their commitment to the job.

In reality, however, many employers are willing to make special arrangements to retain you based on your individual needs — especially if you are a top performer at your job. As an employee assistance professional, you have likely given this advice to your clients but, if applicable to your own situation, it’s important for you to follow it yourself!

* The employee may wish to think about taking advantage of the FMLA. How could the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) be best utilized for a given situation? When would be a good time to take it? Should it be taken all at once or in shorter increments? The employee caregiver should talk to his/her caregiving crew about FMLA options in order to plan a coordinated effort to offer the best possible caregiving an older loved one.

* Take planned breaks away from caregiving and work. Many employee caregivers report that all of their personal time off is allocated toward taking care of their loved ones. Work with the employee to figure out a way how he/she can integrate some kind of break into his or her life. Can the busy worker commit to a weekly yoga class? Can he/she meet a friend for lunch on a monthly basis? What about devoting at least 15 minutes each day to take a relaxing bath or read a magazine?  

As an employee assistance professional, you have likely supported countless clients facing circumstances like these. However, don’t forget that if you are also coping with an elderly parent or other loved one, always strive to treat yourself with the same empathy and compassion that you would offer a struggling client.

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, MSW, LCSW-C, CSP, is the author of “Cruising through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring for Your Loved On” and a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University. Her company, Jenerations Health Education, helps reduce stress while boosting productivity, morale, and revenue through generational awareness. She can be reached by going to or on twitter @fitzpatrickjen or her book is at