To mark Carer’s Week 2023 (5th-11th June), there’s an urgent call* to all employers, urging them to acknowledge and provide support for the immense challenges faced by caregiving employees – as their mental health reaches breaking point.
There has been a surge of online searches from carers who are feeling trapped, burnt out, and stressed with their new responsibilities. Over the last 12 months, our analysis into carers’ online habits has found a surge of searches detailing mental health worries*:
- 3800% increase in online searches for ‘feeling trapped caring for elderly parent’
- 200% increase in online searches for ‘carer exhaustion’
- 89% increase in online searches for ‘carer depression’
“The demands of caregiving outside of the workplace creates an unsustainable balancing act for employees that’s now reached breaking point,” shares Ronan Harvey-Kelly, Seniorcare By Lottie Lead.
Our images of employees capture the double life and emotional toll faced by employees who tirelessly try to balance caregiving duties alongside their careers. The series aims to emphasise the strength and resilience of working carers, whilst raising awareness of the hidden mental health struggles they face each day.
Caregiving responsibilities can affect anyone and by 2024, more employees will have an elderly person dependent on them than a child. We recognise the critical need for employers to acknowledge, empathise and provide genuine practical support for employees with caring responsibilities.
That’s why we are urgently calling on every business owner to recognise this growing crisis, and to take proactive steps to provide the necessary resources and flexibility for all employees, through flexible working options, carer policies, and building a genuinely supportive community at work”, concludes Ronan Harvey-Kelly.
Some carers in desperate need of greater support in the workplace:
Nicola, aged 60, worked full-time whilst juggling the responsibilities of caring for her father: “My father – a charismatic, energetic, and sociable chap who loved life – was suddenly living alone in his 80s having lost his wife. My sister and I both lived more than an hour away, both working full time in demanding jobs.
One of us would go down each weekend but we hated leaving him to go back to work. He of course put on a brave face. Mostly, I would cry in the car driving home. The stress was mainly the uncertainty of not knowing what was coming next, waiting for the phone call in the middle of the night that he’d fallen going to the bathroom, or that he was back in hospital. The call meaning one of you had to ditch work somehow and jump on a train. I say to all my friends with ageing parents, there is no point being in denial, you must prepare early so that you’re not left fighting through your tears.”
Lydia, a 44-year-old working carer from London, finds caring ‘overwhelming in every aspect’: “I am the main contact and lasting power of attorney for my grandfather, whilst balancing my day-to-day job at a start-up. It is overwhelming in every aspect – I have 2 children as well – they are highly dependent on me.
I also work full-time and commute each week. I have taken days off to support my grandfather – I only have a select few holidays still to take and everything is taken up in out-of-work-hours. Carers need urgent help, as this sandwich generation is getting bigger and bigger”.
In Addition to The Emotional Strains Of Caring For An Older Loved One, Informal Carers In The UK Are Out Of Pocket By Almost £2500** Each Year, According To Our New Research:
Our new research has also found the average unpaid carer is missing out on the equivalent of £2494 a year due to the costs of caring – even with the additional benefit of receiving Carer’s Allowance.
This includes expenses like travel, household bills, and any equipment needed, which can quickly add up and take its toll, both financially and emotionally.
Unpaid carers also provide £193 billion of the UK’s social care system each year and are a fundamental part of the UK’s healthcare system.
Employers are being advised* to implement new policies that facilitate a supportive, open and positive environment for all working carers:
1. Raise awareness of caregivers in the workplace
Caregivers are often deterred from disclosing their caregiving responsibilities, which places great strain on their wellbeing at work.
As a leader in your workplace, take the time to listen, understand and empathise with caregivers in your organisations. Simply being aware of caregiver needs is a huge step that bridges the gap between caregivers and their employers.
2. Build a community
Building a culture of support, empathy, and awareness of employees with elderly care responsibilities encourages your staff to be open and communicate about their struggles.
Internal eldercare committees and groups are becoming increasingly common and effective in the workplace and can reduce any pressure employees are facing with their additional caregiver responsibilities.
3. Learn to recognise the signs of caregiving stress
Elderly caregiving responsibilities can increase the risk of mental health issues, especially if they don’t have access to the right support. Caregiving stress is at an all-time high, so watch out for employees that act frustrated, anxious, or unproductive.
Recognising the signs can help you educate your team on stress management and offer a practical solution to the stress they’re experiencing. Encourage your staff to take regular breaks away from work and connect them with support services, including free resources from MIND.
4. Consider flexible working policies
In many ways, your caregiving workers have two jobs, so it’s important to make their lives as easy as possible. Flexible working is the business benefit at the top of almost every employee’s wish list, especially for those who are unpaid carers for elderly relatives.
Offering caregivers flexibility at work can alleviate a lot of pressure for those who may need to help their elderly loved ones first thing in the morning or in the afternoon. You’ll also increase your team’s productivity and lower their stress levels.
5. Implement policies to protect caregivers
By offering eldercare workplace support services, employers can have a positive impact on their employees who provide care to loved ones, helping them be more effective in both their professional and personal roles.
One of the best ways to support a caregiver at work is to provide practical support. You can offer support in several ways, including offering advice from experts on finding a suitable home for your elderly loved one.
Giving employees access to expert care and impartial advice will enable them to be more productive, whilst providing their elderly loved ones with the care they deserve.
* Seniorcare By Lottie