Taking care of your team isn't complete if you aren't caring for the caregivers. This article delves into what a caregiver is, their struggles, and how employers can help.
You can watch the entire conversation on Caring for Caregivers below. Follow us on Linkedin to stay in the loop on future live stream events.
What is Caregiving?
A common misconception about caregiving is that it only involves caring for those that are older than you. But this is not the case!
Simone Olds, Care Coach at Cariloop, defines caregiving as: "providing care for another person."
You do not have to be paid to be a caregiver.
If you're a parent or are part of a family, chances are you have had a caregiving role.
Caregiving can look like:
- Parenting children
- Running errands, making meals, or setting phone calls on a loved one's behalf
- Helping a neighbor in need
- Taking someone to appointments
- Supporting aging loved ones
- Taking care of other peoples' pets
73% of employees have caregiving responsibilities, according to Harvard Business School.
Odds are, if you are part of a community, caregiving applies to you. This means you are probably juggling caregiving, work, and a myriad of other things.
Caregiving in Action
Caregiving isn't just the time you spend actively taking care of a loved one. Caregiving is an important life role that impacts many areas of a person's life.
For instance, a caregiver may spend time doing administrative tasks, like managing finances, for someone they are caring for. Caregivers may also have trouble sleeping or taking care of their own needs due to stress.
Common Struggles for Caregivers
Depression is unfortunately common among caregivers. About 8% of the United States population as a whole experiences depression in any given year. 40-70% of caregivers are struggling with symptoms of depression.
Even if caregivers aren't struggling with anxiety or depression, they may be experiencing stress, overwhelm, or even burnout. While these are diagnosable mental health issues, they are still mental health challenges, and employers should be addressing them.
Coordinating care and caring for a loved one yourself takes a lot of time and even emotional and mental energy. Caregivers may also experience loneliness in their role, which exasperates these symptoms.
Another problem is that many people may not think of themselves as caregivers. Parents are a great example.
Parents take on an immense responsibility, and it is good for them to reach out for support. Like any significant responsibility, you usually shouldn't do it all alone!
Everyone should go through parenting—or any caregiving situation—with support. But that support can be tough to find when you're spending so much time caring for someone else. And if someone does not recognize that they are in a position where they need support, they are much more likely to struggle.
Employers are in a position to help by providing access to counseling services and other avenues for self-care.
Flexible work options and PTO also support caregivers greatly.
Coping with Change
Between 2020 and today, employees and the people they care for have gone through tremendous change, struggles, and uncertainty.
At the beginning of the pandemic, parents had to become teachers. Parents started working from home.
Two years later, employees are returning to the office or doing hybrid work, which is yet another significant change to adjust to. As Olds stated, employees are having their "rhythm disrupted again."
Change is difficult, and employers and caregivers need to acknowledge that so that they can start receiving support. Simply having someone in your support system who understands what it is like to be a caregiver can make a positive impact.
Caregiver Self-Care Comes First
Self-care is crucial for the wellbeing of both the caregiver and the one receiving care.
"Most of the time, caregivers put themselves on the backburner... and they neglect themselves, which leads to more stressors, which leads to more mental health issues and challenges," reflects Olds.
"A lot of our members and caregivers... the first thing that they share is caregiver guilt. They feel bad for bringing in additional support, they don't want their family members to feel like they are giving up. So instead of asking or receiving help, they just try to do it all on their own. So, first, ask and accept help! Delegate duties, add more people to the support system that will help relieve some of the tasks you have to do, that way you can focus more on yourself."
It isn't easy to find time for self-care. But with extra support and help, it is possible.
Olds encourages caregivers to remember: "You can't pour from an empty cup,"
Here are some more ways employers can help caregivers prioritize self-care:
- Talk to your team about the importance of self-care during a lunch and learn
- Provide PTO and flexible work hours
- Give access to free counseling
- Enable employees to access a mental health program that can help them with self-care in multiple areas of life (physical, emotional, financial, etc.)
- Offer childcare benefits
For a lot more tips on caregiver self-care, check out this blog post we wrote in collaboration with Cariloop on How Caregivers Can Take Care of Themselves.
Cariloop is a Caregiver Support Service that pairs licensed/certified Care Coaches with employees to support them through their entire caregiving journey. You can learn more tips for caregivers on their blog.
This blog post was inspired by a live stream event with Cariloop and Nivati. You can watch the recording below.
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