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When Work Works for You: Identifying What Support You Need as a Working Family Caregiver

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You thought that caring for children was a challenge. They’re grown now, but you may be feeling that same work-family tug in looking after your senior loved one. You’re not alone.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2012, 8.1 million Canadians (28 percent) ages 15 and over reported that they were assuming caregiver responsibilities for either a family member or a friend*.

While 78 percent of working family caregivers surveyed report receiving support in their caregiving tasks, majorities of those caring for their mothers and fathers say they are the sole or primary caregiver, according to research conducted for Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead® network. As one family caregiver put it, “Although you want to be with your loved one 100 percent of the time (or as much as possible) you still have to work to make ends meet in your own life. It’s hard and extremely emotional.”

Aside from adding extra hours to the day, it could be difficult to know what can realistically help you achieve the ideal work and family fit when caring for an aging loved one. Identifying your needs may be the first step in helping you manage your job and maintaining a quality family life as well as your own health.  Studies have revealed support in the following areas to be important to working family caregivers. Perhaps these topics resonate with you:

Eldercare resources and referrals: In a Gallup study released in 2011, working caregivers of aging family members surveyed said they would most value these services:

  • Financial/legal advisors (37%),
  • Health counselors (31.5%),
  • Assisted living consultants (24.1%), and
  • Emotional counseling (15.3%)**.

“Maintaining a healthy work life balance can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a working family caregiver,” said Nora Spinks, CEO, The Vanier Institute of the Family. “Access to the right support at the right time can go a long way in ensuring that working family caregivers are not only able to meet the needs of their senior loved ones but also meet their own personal care needs as well.”
Furthermore, the Canadian Government and many provinces offer support to eligible working caregivers. This may include job-protected paid leave, or a caregiver tax deduction.

Access to respite care: Respite care is temporary care help when you need relief, whether it’s assistance taking a loved one to a doctor’s appointment, time away to take care of your personal business or to see your own doctor. Look to family and friends if you can, or contact a professional caregiving service such as Home Instead to find out how they could help you.

Greater flexibility: Juggling doctor appointments and responding to emergencies with a senior loved one can be challenging when your work hours are definitively laid out. According to The Vanier Institute of the Family, a flexible work arrangement can be one of the most valuable supports for family caregivers to manage balancing all of life’s demands***.

Time off: In 2012, the majority of Canadian employees with caregiving responsibilities reported working for an employer that provided the ability to take a leave to take care of a family member (74%), according to Statistics Canada****. Fifty-five percent of those who responded to the Home Instead® survey say additional paid time off and flexible scheduling would help them a lot. If you need time away from work for caregiving duties, you could consider letting your manager know that this is becoming an option offered increasingly by other companies. Asking for extended periods of time off may not be feasible at your job. But working with your manager and co-workers may help generate a plan that could benefit the company and others as well.

More understanding from management: “It’s important that employers recognize the unique needs of employees caring for senior loved ones and develop a workplace caregiving strategy with programs, policies and practices that enable employees to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities without negatively impact their own health or their careers,” said Nora Spinks, CEO, The Vanier Institute of the Family. In Canada, some workplaces face many challenges fulfilling their duty to accommodate an employee due to family status, in particular while they meet their caregiving obligations and commitments. In fact, 26 percent who responded in the Home Instead survey report workplace stigma associated with caregiving. You can do what you can to get your manager and coworkers acquainted with your aging loved one and help them understand the kinds of issues you and your senior loved one are facing. And, by opening up, chances are you’ll discover you’re not the only one at your company caring for an aging loved one.


*Maire Sinha, “Portrait of Caregivers, 2012,” Statistics Canada
**Findings are from a special survey of Americans who self-identified as caregivers in Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveys throughout 2010
*** The Vanier Institute of the Family, Caring Enough to Flex, Flexing Enough to Care
****Statistics Canada, Flexible Work Arrangements

Last revised: May 31, 2017

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