Juggling care and career: Why supporting carers in the workplace is the right thing to do
My lovely mother-in-law describes her 50s, 60s and 70s as her “golden years”. As she keeps reminding my husband and I: “Your father and I were travelling the world when we were your age, or we were out and about meeting friends or at the bowling club.”
And so they were! Able to draw their pensions (state and private) at 60 and 65-years-old respectively, they enjoyed a long, happy and comfortable retirement unencumbered by caring responsibilities either for each other or for their parents who had passed away decades beforehand.
At 57, my “golden years” on the other hand are shaping up somewhat differently. Since May 2022 when my mum (86) collapsed with sepsis from a urinary infection, I’ve been sharing her care and that of my 92-year-old father, who has late-stage prostate cancer, with my younger sister (53), who is herself recovering from cancer treatment. Both mum and dad are now housebound and require 24-hour support which includes everything from meal preparation to toileting.
Fortunately, we were able to access a council care package for mum, which means two carers visit four times a day, but my dad is still waiting to be assessed. To pick up the slack and allow our much-loved parents to remain in their own home, my sister has given up her full-time job to be their primary carer with me staying over 48 hours each week to give her a break.
Added to this are my caring responsibilities for my mother-in-law who, despite living quite independently at 93-years-old, was widowed during the Covid lockdown and requires help with shopping and all the other bits and pieces that become so much more difficult when we get that little bit older.
Throughout all of this my job as Marketing Manager at Bell Ingram has been a lifeline, not just financially (as my husband was forced to retire earlier than expected due to a stroke), but as a means of living a life outside caring. Just having a natter with other people and hearing the banter of office life is a real tonic when things are rough at home.
I consider myself extremely lucky to work for a company which believes that supporting carers is the right thing to do and this ethos has allowed me to stay in a job that I love and progress my career.
It’s important to stress that Bell Ingram doesn’t just pay “lip-service” to carer inclusion. In practical terms, my boss has given me the green light to work from my parents’ home two days a week which has been a game-changer. Instead of driving back and forward from Perth to Glasgow twice a week, I now have a home office in their flat where I can do a full day’s work, while still being available to cook meals, let in doctors and carers, and keep an eye on them during the night.
Being a carer can be overwhelming at times and I also count myself blessed to work with people who have been amazingly supportive when I’ve had a bit of a tearful meltdown in ladies’ loo or on one mortifying occasion while serving drinks at our stand at the Royal Highland Show!
I am also part of Bell Ingram’s Carer Network which was formed recently as a platform for colleagues who identify as carers to talk frankly about the challenges of juggling our caring responsibilities with our working lives.
We met for the first time on Teams earlier this month and I found it really helpful to share my experiences with people who fully appreciated the physical and emotional toll of caring for loved ones.
It was also a chance to share information about the support that’s available from local or national charities, benefits that can be claimed, and tips on how carers can maintain their own well-being.
I know it’s a cliché but the last three years have been a rollercoaster for me and my family, and it’s taught me to be grateful for what I’ve got, to celebrate the small wins and not dwell on the future. I may not be travelling the world like my in-laws did at my age, but I have my family, my friends and a job I love … and that’s more than enough.
Tel: 01738 621 121
About: Alison heads up Bell Ingram’s marketing and PR team. She is a marketing and communications specialist who has worked across a wide range of sectors including social enterprise, events, museums, charities, farming, law, technology, building and public sector. Previously she was a regional editor with Media Scotland, co-ordinating print and digital newspaper titles across Central Tayside. Interests: Brand Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Public Relations and Media Management, Content Creation, Newspaper and Magazine Production, Event Planning and Delivery.