Expert tips to balance family caregiving with a busy life

A mother and daughter share caregiving responsibilities by taking a grandparent in a wheelchair out for a walk.

Balancing work life with family caregiving is tough.

The responsibility can strain relationships with friends and family members and can take a serious toll on a person’s mental health. Research has found 20% of family caregivers suffer from depression—a rate twice that of the general population. Nearly one third of caregivers report moderate to severe anxiety symptoms.

When caregivers feel overwhelmed by their responsibility, they struggle to bring their best self to their work and personal life.

What happens to unsupported caregivers?

The US is home to 53 million family caregivers, most of them women. Research from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP shows working female caregivers are twice as likely to lose job related benefits, three times as likely to take less-demanding jobs and four times as likely to leave their jobs as their non-caregiving counterparts. According to recent data, in April 2021 the US workforce participation rate for women was only 57.2%, equaling what it had been in October 1988.

The financial burden of caregiving becomes especially heavy when we consider that 78% of family caregivers have out of pocket expenses totaling 20% their income. And marginalized communities may be hit the hardest.

Studies show racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community are overrepresented among family caregivers.  Compared to other family caregivers, the former are less likely to leverage paid care to ease their burden and the latter are more likely to experience higher levels of financial strain.

How can LifeSpeak help?

The pandemic has only made things more complicated. The situation necessitated at-home, online learning for children in some regions while elders were quarantined to protect their health. Factors like these only added to the regular stress caregivers experience. They also reinforced the need for better support. We offer employees, clients and their families digital, expert-led support tailored to their specific needs.

At Lifespeak, we recognize the need to support caregivers’ mental health and overall wellbeing so they can take care of the people they love while managing their daily responsibilities and looking after themselves.

Below, we share insights from certified caregiving coach Denis Brown on how to handle the strain of caregiving. These insights come from the caregiving micro-learning videos available exclusively on the LifeSpeak platform.

How caregiving can impact your family

There’s no point denying it: caregiving is a family affair.

In her LifeSpeak video, How caregiving can impact your family, certified caregiving coach Denise Brown says caregivers need to think about it that way and implement new behaviors that take the whole family into consideration.

For instance, caregivers may have difficulty getting the whole family together as often as they’d like. They may find it harder to have dinner every night or take a weeklong vacation.

But rather than lament their limitations, they can create rituals that bring people together.  Is it Sunday night dinner or Tuesday night dinner? Perhaps it’s a weekend vacation instead of a weeklong one.

Brown says caregivers should try to create rituals that happen on a regular basis, not just on a holiday or a special occasion.  The ritual and that time spent together help keep a family connected.

“There are so many life lessons during a caregiving experience, that’s the beauty of it,” Denise says. “It can feel like it is all about declines and suffering, and yet, it’s also about life and making the most of it.”

How to balance caregiving and a career

When caregiving impacts a career, caregivers often wonder if they should tell someone at work, like a manager, about their issues.

According to Brown, there are two schools of thought about this: one that says, “I’m not going to bring caregiving to work because it’s my experience, it’s my life, I don’t need to talk about it at work.” And the other that says, “I need to talk about it, I want to communicate about it with my manager.”

While the choice is individual, Brown says if caregivers do communicate their caregiving at work, they should try to avoid surprising bosses and co-workers. She encourages caregivers to think about how they will communicate their experience. What’s the bottom line, the message that they want to impart to their manager? It’s probably something like: “I’m caring for a family member, and this is the impact it’s having on me. What do you need to know about my situation?”

Brown reminds caregivers to be open about how their manager responds.  This is an ongoing conversation, not a one and done.  Caregivers and managers should figure out how often and how much talk to about it.

Why it’s important to forgive those who cannot help

Brown shares a very personal story in this video that can help caregivers feeling resentful of family members who do not want to help or cannot help shoulder caregiving responsibilities.

Brown has four siblings. But when her parents were having significant health crises, her older sister said, “I no longer want to be involved. Don’t keep me up to date. Don’t call me, don’t text me, I’m out.”

Brown says her sister lived five minutes from her parents and could have been a big help. And yet she understood that her sister was out. It took Brown and her siblings about a year to come to terms with her sister’s decision, but eventually, they did, even though it was hard for them to figure out and they couldn’t understand it.

“And yet we decide, if she comes back into our life, it’s okay,” Brown says. “We forgive her because that’s how we move on. If I hold a grudge, I hurt myself.”

Want to learn more?

This is just a snapshot of the caregiving support available on the LifeSpeak platform. Brown, along with the rest of our caregiving experts, cover topics like how to manage compassion fatigue, embracing and communicating hard truths, learning boundaries, choosing a caregiving team for later in life and much, much more.

When caregivers feel better, they support others better, perform better at work, and live more fulfilling lives. If you’re already a LifeSpeak member, login to the platform to view all the caregiving education available in your library.

Not a LifeSpeak client?

Book a demo today for an in-depth look at everything LifeSpeak can do.

Need even more caregiving support?

Torchlight, a LifeSpeak company, is here to help.

Torchlight can guide your employees through the everyday obstacle of family caregiving and prevent crises. Its digital platform supports caregivers with expert-led resources, direct access to one-on-one advising and concierge services. It presents each caregiver with personalized resources that alleviate uncertainty so they can make important decisions with confidence. Torchlight eliminates the ‘middleman’ by providing your caregivers with direct access to top specialists and expertise in a scalable, cost-effective way.

Bilingual, Anna Mittag is based in Montreal and oversees several portfolios and teams: product innovation, content creation and curation, client services, and sales and partnership support. Before joining the Company, Ms. Mittag practiced insurance litigation law with Lavery de Billy LLP and was in-house counsel for Cirque du Soleil. Ms. Mittag holds a BA in English Literature and JD and BCL degrees from McGill University.