Working and Caring - what gives?
Read this carer's story...
A family carer was working full time in a senior role at a financial organisation and due to present at a Board meeting, on a challenging and emotive topic. Unfortunately the Board meeting was scheduled at a time when she had planned to have a short break to attend an event in London and there was nobody else who could attend on her behalf. The holiday was for 3 days, and was the first holiday she had taken in nearly 6 months. She agreed with her Director to present remotely, dialling into the Board Meeting from the event. This is quite a common scenario for staff in a senior role, and reflects the choices that employees often have to make.
The family carer also looked after her mother, who lived in sheltered housing and had a diagnosis of dementia. Her mother refused to accept any professional help and was reliant on her daughter. This again, is quite a common scenario, with over 770,000 family carers currently reported in the UK, meeting the physical and emotional needs of family members on a daily basis.
On the day of the event, the family carer found a quiet location, and gathered her papers ready to dial into the Board meeting. Her phone rang and she was advised that her mother had taken an overdose of pills and was being taken to hospital in an ambulance. There was nothing she could do for her mother at that time, and feeling the responsibility of her work position, dialled into the Board meeting to present. The Board meeting was very difficult and she was met with significant challenge and asked to provide additional information.
She came off the phone and felt completely overwhelmed with a situation over which she had very little control. She stayed at the event for a few hours, but spent the time on the phone trying to resolve the situation. Her friends were concerned for her, and she returned home, without having a break.
This is a very specific example of an unfortunate series of events, but it highlights the types of choices that family carers are presented with on a daily basis.
As it turned out, her mother had not taken an overdose of pills, but had told medical staff she had done, as she wanted to get the attention of her daughter ‘who had left her behind and gone on holiday’. Her mother ended up in a ‘locked ward’ for 4 months and was angry with her daughter for leaving her for 3 days.”
The situation was one of many that resulted in a lack of energy, lack of confidence and low mood, at a time of increased pressure in the organisation.
The carer felt trapped in an impossible situation and felt like a failure in her job, family life and role as a carer. She asked to take voluntary redundancy from a career of 25 years, to focus on her mental well-being. She now works for another organisation, as a part-time administrator, while managing caring responsibilities.
The organisation lost key skills at a critical time, and the family carer had limited choices and no support. The organisation had an employee assistance programme, but it wasn’t able to give specialist advice on options for situations such as hers.