Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
Balancing caregiving and work

In 2007, up to 70 per cent of adult Canadian workers provided some form of care to elders and women provided more hours of care. This figure has risen significantly in the last decade, due in part to: closer to home‖ health care policies, which have led to earlier and earlier discharge of patients from hospitals; growing numbers of women in the work force; and the aging of the population.

In addition to working outside the home, family caregivers reported spending an average of 31 hours per month performing activities related to caregiving. Twenty-five per cent of those who do caregiving perform ―personal care‖ tasks for elders such as feeding, dressing, and bathing.

Almost 50 per cent of Canadians report experiencing a moderate to high degree of stress trying to balance work and family life issues, a significant increase from 27 per cent in 1990. As well, a number of studies have found that when caregivers’ work/life balance becomes an issue, they can experience:

  •  health problems (affecting 20 per cent of caregivers).
  • loss or lack of sleep (25 per cent).
  • decreased social activities (50 per cent).
  • a lack of time for themselves (60 per cent).

Finally, caregivers have reported that their lack of knowledge of resources can leave them feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, isolated and alone.

Caregiving issues in the workplace

In addition to the personal and social costs for family caregivers, caregiving issues affect the workplace in terms of:

  • Time lost from work (e.g., taking days off to take the care recipient to appointments, coming in late, taking telephone calls related to caregiving, and so forth).
  • Lost job or career opportunities when employees feel they have to refuse greater job responsibilities such as work- related travel and promotions because of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Rearranging work schedules to accommodate increased caregiving responsibilities, e.g., by moving to part time work or working flexible hours.
  • Quitting their jobs especially if they feel unsupported by their supervisor.

…many workers do not feel they are free to talk about their elder or adult dependent care-related problems.

Workers perceive that employers take caregiving issues for children more seriously than they do for older people or adult dependents; thus many workers do not feel they are free to talk about their elder or adult dependent care-related problems. Similarly, many workers perceive that their organization adheres to a leave-your-personal life-at-the-door‖ culture, which can augment workers’ stress when caregiving issues arise. Caregiving- related stress thus becomes an invisible problem for workers.