Daughter feeding elderly mother with soup.

Helping Employees Maintain Well-Being as a Caregiver 

There are 53 million Americans who are providing unpaid care for relatives and friends. The average number of hours per week a spouse or partner spends caring for their loved one is more than 37, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. 

Caregiving can have many rewards. For most caregivers, being there when a loved one is in need is a core value and something they wish to provide. Still, 84% of family caregivers report they want more information and help on caregiving topics, especially those related to safety at home and dealing with stress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Population Health. 

The Caring Company Report, produced by the Harvard Business School, found that: 

  • 24% of employers said caregiving influenced workers’ performance.
  • 80% of employees with caregiving responsibilities admitted caregiving affected their productivity.
  • A third of caregivers leave their jobs because of their caregiving responsibilities.

Organizations can support employees who carry the extra responsibility of being a caregiver by doing the following: 

  • Acknowledge the topic with employees
  • Open lines of communication
  • Communicate benefits available
  • Communicate Employee Assistance Program (EAP) program
  • Promote well-being resources
  • Reduce the stigma

It’s important to recognize caregiver burnout. Research shows that caregivers report higher levels of stress than their non-caregiving colleagues. Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that can happen when you don’t get the help you need, or if you try to do more than you’re able.  

 Causes of caregiver burnout include:  

  • Role confusion – Having difficulty separating the caregiver role from the one of spouse, child or friend.  
  • Unrealistic expectations – You may expect your care to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the person you care for.  
  • Lack of control – Feelings of frustration over a lack of money, resources and skills to properly manage your loved one’s care.  
  • Unreasonable demands – Taking on too much because you see providing care as your job alone instead of seeking help from others.  
  • Other factors – Jeopardizing your own well-being by not recognizing when you are burned out.  

Depression affects 20% to 40% of all caregivers, according to AgingInPlace.org. Since 2015 the number of Americans providing care for family members and friends has increased by 7.6 million people. 

 Symptoms of caregiver burnout include:  

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight or both 
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Using alcohol or sleep medications too much
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person you are caring for

 Learn more about how to help employees maintain their well-being as caregivers in this Blue Cross® Virtual Well-Being webinar. You can also sign up for future employer-focused and general interest webinars here, where you’ll find past sessions and resources.    

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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