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The Guilt and Stress of a Working Caregiver

“I found myself snapping at my husband and barely holding it together when dealing with my mom, my son and my co-workers. I knew I was at a breaking point - it had been just over a year since my father died, and my mother was taking up more and more of my time. She was relatively healthy but would call me multiple times in a day needing help with something. I would feel guilty if I did not give her my full attention, but it was hard since I was at work. If I spent too much time talking to her or took off early, I would feel guilty about my work not getting done as quickly as I would like. And I didn’t want to say anything to her because I didn’t want her to feel bad about calling me. I could put a little of it off until the evening but if I needed to call her doctor, they were already gone for the day - plus I tried to focus on my son once I got home in the evening.”

- Sue, family caregiver and full-time employee

Alone but in the Company of Others

Although Sue is one of the more than 53 million family caregivers in the U.S, she felt alone. She was trying to manage it all on her own, not aware of what support was available to her. No one else at work seemed to take time off to care for an older relative. She felt guilty saying that her mother was causing her stress, so she kept it to herself.

The numbers tell a different story though. Working caregivers make up over 20% of the workforce and spend on average more than 20 hours per week on direct care and other responsibilities. There is a stigma around caregiving - it is often seen as a familial duty so we do not talk about it. To further complicate matters, many people do not even realize that they are already in a caregiving role and do not identify as a caregiver even though they are spending time helping out an older adult.

The Stress is Real

The emotional fatigue, physical exhaustion and financial strain result in high levels of stress, anxiety and burnout. Studies have shown that among caregivers of adults:

Impact on Work

If it’s affecting employees on an individual level, it’s impacting the workplace. One in three caregivers will ultimately leave the workforce to better meet the needs of their loved ones, according to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, resulting in roughly a $290 billion a year loss by 2030.

it is not surprising that that employers who create support systems for caregiving employees see the payoff in recruitment, retention, engagement and productivity.

Finding Support

Sue and the millions like her deserve understanding, empathy and support. Below are a few suggestions to find and nurture that support system.

Talk about Caregiving

Caregivers: Find support by identifying others with similar experiences. You may be surprised to learn that other people you know have gone through this and can offer you advice.

Employers: Raise awareness about family caregiving and start to foster a more supportive environment where your employees can be comfortable sharing their caregiving needs.

Assess the Situation

Caregivers: Take a moment and think of all the ways you are helping an older relative or friend - make sure to include even minor tasks such as taking out the garbage. This will help you identify where you are spending time and what support you need.

Employers: Review your policies to ensure that they are friendly towards caregivers of adults and gather data regarding the needs of your caregiving employees.

Identify or Create a Support System

Caregivers: It helps to share. Make sure there is someone you can talk to about what you are experiencing. Look into in-person or online support groups and find one that feels right for you.

Employers: Increase support for your employees by creating a caregiver employee resource group and offering an elder care benefit that offers practical support to your employees.

Seek Assistance

Caregivers: Find an expert in elder care, like Mellie, to help you plan and coordinate care. Let them do the work so that you can focus on what’s important to you.

Employers: Find an elder care benefit, such as Mellie, that can meet the needs of your employees by providing practical support, guidance and education.

Contact us at Mellie to learn how we can support you as a caregiver and your employee caregivers.


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