According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 65 million people provide an average of 20 hours of care to ailing or aging loved ones in the United States. With about 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age every day, this number is expected to increase drastically. This dilemma is worsened by the fact that few resources are available for working caregivers and that each caregiving situation is highly unique.
Who are these caregivers? According to statistics provided by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, the typical caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who is married and employed. She provides care to her mother, who does not live with her.
Why are caregiving situations so stressful? Caregiving situations are incredibly stressful because they are emotionally and physically taxing. The best way to understand the amount of stress caregivers are under is by living through a caregiving experience, but looking at a typical day for a caregiver can provide a lot of insight.
This is what life is like as a working caregiver:
Kelly is a 49-year-old woman who, like the typical caregiver, is married, has children, and is providing care for her aging mother, Mary. Mary is mostly independent, but she recently had to have surgery after falling and breaking her hip. She is fortunate enough to be able to stay at home during her recovery.
5:45 a.m. Kelly wakes up to start getting her two children ready for school. She prepares breakfast for the entire family, makes two lunches, and packs the children’s backpacks.
7:00 a.m. She brings the children to the bus stop, and gets them on their way to school. She quickly stops back at her house to get ready for her day at the office.
7:30 a.m. While driving to work, Kelly calls to check on her mother, Mary. Mary says she is doing well, but that she’s concerned about the physical therapist coming to see her. She lives alone, and is somewhat hesitant about letting a new person into her home. She requests that Kelly be there when the physical therapist arrives. Kelly agrees to go over on her lunch break to see her mother then.
8:00 a.m. Kelly arrives to work, and sits down at her desk. She begins to go through her emails and missed calls from the past weekend.
10:00 a.m. Kelly notices a missed call on her cellphone. It’s from her mother. She calls her back to find out that her mother is becoming increasingly anxious about the visit from the physical therapist, and isn’t sure what paperwork she needs to have prepared or what identification she needs. Kelly talks to her for a half an hour, trying to calm her down. She does some quick online research to give her mother direction about what documentation she will need.
10:30 a.m. Kelly sits back down at her desk, still somewhat worried about her mother’s mental state. She wishes she could go to be with her mother now, but she has to stay at work until her lunch break and she already has some catching up to do after the phone call with her mother.
12:00 p.m. Kelly takes her lunch break, and goes to see her mother and the physical therapist. When she arrives, she finds that her mother is not very happy about having someone come into her home. She talks with her mother before the physical therapist arrives and calms her down.
12:15 p.m. The physical therapist arrives, and she is very kind and helpful. Mary goes through with her scheduled appointment, but it runs a little late because Kelly has a lot to discuss with the physical therapist about her mother’s health, insurance, and her exercises. She has to keep track of this information because her mother will easily lose or forget it.
1:00 p.m. Kelly arrives back to work, and sits down to try to finish her work before she has to leave to pick up her children. She apologizes to her manager for taking a long lunch break.
2:55 p.m. Kelly receives a phone call from her mother. With all of the commotion of the day, her mother didn’t prepare any dinner. She asks if Kelly could bring her over some food after their family dinner. Kelly agrees to take her mother dinner after she sits down with her family.
3:00 p.m. Kelly has to leave work to pick up her children from school. She brings the kids back home, but has to go back to the office to work on a project she wasn’t able to complete earlier because of her mother’s physical therapy appointment.
5:00 p.m. With only an hour to go before dinner, Kelly rushes out of the office and stops by the grocery store to pick up food for the family.
6:00 p.m. The family sits down to eat, and Kelly realizes she has to help her son with a math project that is due the next day. She puts aside some dinner for her mother to bring to her later.
7:00 p.m. Kelly drives over to her mother’s house to bring her dinner. Her mother is somewhat lonely, so she talks to Kelly about her day and the children for an hour.
8:00 p.m. Kelly comes home to help her son with his math project. It takes about two hours.
10:00 p.m. Kelly finally has an hour or two to herself. She takes out her laptop and tries to work on that project she didn’t finish today.
11:00 p.m. Kelly finally decides it’s time to go to sleep, and she isn’t able to do much work on her project anyways because she’s worried about her mother.
As you can see, a working caregiver’s hours are primarily devoted to caring for their ailing or aging loved one and providing care for their family. Kelly barely has any time for herself, and, she spends most of the day racing between appointments and trying to provide support for her family. In addition to physically spending time with her mother, Kelly spends a lot of time struggling with the emotional aspect of caregiving. She is worried, upset, and saddened by the situation. Work is the last thing that Kelly can worry about while she’s caregiving. All of this affects Kelly’s productivity and her ability to focus on her work.
How can employers support caregivers? At Long Term Solutions, we’re trying to do that. We have a unique program, WeCare+ that is designed for employers. With WeCare+, Long Term Solutions provides support to working caregivers. To learn more about WeCare+, please click here.