Study says eldercare is taking its toll

Responsibilities for aging family and friends is taking its toll on Canadian workers and impacting their employers, according to a recent study by The Conference Board of Canada. One in four survey respondents said that they or others in their households provided care or support in some form to an elderly family member or friend. And a full 25 per cent of caregivers provide “personal” care – feeding, dressing, bathing.

“These people are more likely than other caregivers to report health problems, lack of time for themselves and too little sleep,” says Judith MacBride-King, author of “Caring about Caregiving: The Eldercare Responsibilities of Canadian Workers and the Impact on Employers.” Eldercare responsibilities, especially when the caregiving is intense, translate into higher stress levels and more difficulty in balancing work and personal life.

The Conference Board study reports that Canadian workers who provide personal care spend almost 60 hours a month with those requiring their care, versus 18 per cent of other caregivers. The “sandwich generation” — those providing support to elderly family members while they still have children at home — are more likely than hers to experience problems balancing work-life responsibilities.

“Workers who are having difficulty balancing work and life have higher absence rates,” says MacBride-King. “And those with both eldercare and childcare responsibilities have more absences and more interruptions at work than those with only one set of caregiving responsibilities.”

Flexibility, a supportive workplace culture, information and some financial assistance seem to be the essential ingredients of a more balanced, healthy lifestyle for Canadians with eldercare responsibilities, according to the report. Workplace flexibility in the form of flextime, compressed work weeks and flexible schedules has been cited as the number one support needed by caregivers.