We have written a lot about the physical and emotional impact of being a long-distance caregiver, along with the high levels of stress that can lead to caregiver burnout. There is one more important issue to discuss and that is the impact that long-distance caregiving responsibilities can have on work. Caregiving duties can easily disrupt work schedules and career paths.
A national study of 1,130 long-distance caregivers conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving with Zogby International looked at the impact of caregiving on work and the MetLife Mature Market Institute℠ published a report on the findings. It paints a picture of compassionate caregivers who are struggling to balance caregiving, their personal life, and work.
There are approximately 34 million American caregivers and 15% of them live one hour or more away from the person in their care. In fact, among study participants, caregivers lived an average distance of 450 miles from their loved one and traveled 7.23 hours one-way to visit them.
The study found that when it comes to balancing work and caregiving responsibilities there are many challenges for caregivers including work interruptions because of time spent on the phone coordinating care, responding to calls from their loved one and more. The majority of respondents in this study, (80%), were working either full or part-time.
- The percent of long-distance caregivers working part-time increased substantially from the 1997 study, growing from 8% to 18%.
- More than four in ten had to rearrange their work schedules in order to take care of their caregiving responsibilities.
- 36% reported missing days of work.
- 12% took a leave of absence from work.
- Men and women reported in equal numbers that they had to rearrange work schedules – leaving early, arriving late, taking unpaid leave, or considering changing employers to accommodate caregiving responsibilities.
Even though men and women both reported that caregiving disrupted their work, women reported losing greater numbers of hours. This is due to the fact that women in the study were more likely to report that they were the only or the main caregiver in their situation, thereby absorbing more of the impact of caregiving responsibilities.
- Women reported missing an average of 24 hours of work per month as a result of caregiving as opposed to 17 hours reported by men.
- Women also reported spending more time than men in helping the care recipient around their home; 23.5 hours for women as opposed to 21 hours for men.
- Women reported spending 14.5 hours a month helping their loved one with personal care and men reported 11 hours.
- On average, women spent more money each month on services needed by the care recipient, $751 as opposed to $490 spent by men.
These issues increase stress on long-distance caregivers exponentially. Not only do they worry about the health and well-being of their loved one, they also have to worry about the status of their job and their own financial well-being. As the senior population continues to grow, services need to address these conflicting priorities and help to support caregivers. You shouldn’t ever feel under-resourced, however, if you find yourself wondering what resources are out there for accommodating long-distance care here are few tips.
While employers become aware of these issues and hopefully move to create supportive workplaces, professional at-home caregivers can help. They can be an extension of care for the long-distance caregiver and serve as the eyes and ears in the home of their loved ones. Professional caregivers are trained in many specialties, from Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease. They can provide hourly or daily care on a regular basis or in times of special need like after hospital discharge or suffering a stroke. Given the enormity of caregiving, having a professional to help on site with a loved one can be a relief and a great support system for long-distance caregivers.