Top 5 Support Needs for Working Family Caregivers

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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 a family member or friend.

While 78 percent of working family caregivers surveyed report receiving support in their caregiving tasks, majorities of those caring for their parents say they are the sole or primary caregiver, according to research conducted for Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® 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.”

Studies have revealed support in the following areas to be important to working family caregivers:

1. 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%).

“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,” said Nora Spinks, CEO, The Vanier Institute of the Family.

2. 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 Senior Care.

3. Greater flexibility: Juggling doctor appointments and responding to emergencies with a senior loved one can be challenging when you have fixed work hours. 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 all of life’s demands.

4. 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 care for a family member (74%), according to Statistics Canada. Fifty-five percent of the Home Instead® survey respondents said additional paid time off and flexible scheduling would help them a lot.

Asking for extended 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.

5. 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 impacting their own health or their careers,” said Nora Spinks, CEO, The Vanier Institute of the Family.

Twenty-six percent who responded in the Home Instead survey report workplace stigma associated with caregiving. Reducing that stigma might begin with a proactive conversation with your manager and coworkers about the issues you and your family 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.

For more information and resources to balance career responsibilities while caring for an aging loved one, visit